Tag Archives: love

The man who would be my father

“I don’t want people digging through my trash or my recycle,” he’d say, sitting back down into his chair to read the morning newspaper. “I pay money for the city to come pick those up. If they want to dig through the trash, let them go to the dump.”

“I don’t want people digging through my trash or my recycle,” he’d say, sitting back down into his chair after chasing them away to read the morning newspaper. “I pay money for the city to come pick those up. If they want to dig through the trash, let them go to the dump.”

by Stacey Warde

I learned the best example of manhood from a guy who was—I thought as a kid growing up—not very manly.

My stepfather, who died in 2008 from kidney cancer, didn’t have the physique of a man who would easily intimidate. He looked more like a New Jersey Italian teddy bear, a Mediterranean Buddha with belly to match, who loved to pass out cigars and pour a good stiff bourbon when the occasion called for it; he worked hard and celebrated life with gusto.

He had a lot of fight in him, fearless in his way, and he was pretty good about knowing when to use it, without resorting to fisticuffs. You always knew where you stood with him. He never minced words.

He took us on, some 50 years ago—mom, my brother and me— as if we were his own. He quickly laid down the law, setting boundaries and establishing family as the beginning and end of all things. He had been raised in the old ways of a New Jersey Italian where family and loyalty to one’s clan are as sacrosanct as the natural order of the universe.


My brother and I, abandoned by our biological father, were hurt, angry little boys when mom remarried and we weren’t quite ready for another man to claim us as his own.

Sure, we liked him—as a friend—but when mom told us she was going to marry him and that he was going to be our dad, we rebelled. We tested him. When the cops came knocking on our door only a few months after the wedding, he stood by my brother and me as we bold-faced lied.

“Did you throw rocks at the old lady’s window?” he asked us, responding to a complaint from the neighbor woman—a cranky old bag who hated kids—as the cops waited patiently on our doorstep for an answer.

“No, we didn’t do it,” we protested.

“If my boys say they didn’t do it, they didn’t do it,” he said firmly, closing the door on the cops and sending them away.

Mom came home later that day and got straight to the point with my brother: “Why’d you do it, Nathan?”

“They made me do it,” he wailed, pointing his finger at me.

We both got whooped pretty hard for making our new dad look like a fool in front of the cops. He made clear that his authority was to be respected, or we’d pay the consequences. That was our first taste of fatherly love, Italian style.

“You don’t have to love me, but you will respect me,” was the message, and as time passed I learned to both respect and love my new father.


Dad put a lot of stock into “playing the game right.”

One summer years later, after he’d gotten his licks in as a father, he put together a traveling baseball team, hand-picked the players and helped organize the league. It was forward-thinking at the time for teens our age who wanted to continue playing through the summer, an idea that came long before the now super-hyped, expensive and prestigious traveling leagues we see today with their fancy uniforms and fussy parents and spoiled players telling the coaches what to do.

It was a big treat for us kids, too, getting to play past the usual short season of organized youth baseball; it was a rougher and scrappier kind of game, more in the dirt, and with other talented kids from communities beyond our own whom we’d never met before, and who also loved to play hard and get dirty. It was just the boys and their dads, who helped with the officiating and coaching, steeped in the passion of playing the game.

My dad instilled in me that summer a love for the game that went well beyond just playing good baseball. It had everything to do with how I played, and the way I carried myself on and off the field—do it with class, he’d say.

“If you can’t play the game right, don’t play at all!” he barked at me once when I’d tried a cleats-to-the-face slide into third base. He didn’t like foul play or cheats; he wanted me to know and play the game well enough to take advantage of my opportunities without resorting to cheating or foul play. “It makes you a better player, and others will respect you more when you play the game right,” he said. “You don’t have to cheat to win.”

And he benched me to drive home his point.

During another game, while pitching, I got increasingly frustrated because I was missing the corners, and throwing more balls, and wearing myself down. I still managed to hold off most batters, but was working too hard at it. My frustration got worse and I let anger take over and started throwing harder, straight down the pipe, but still missing, and digging myself into a hole.

My dad saved me from myself and pulled me from the game. But I was angry and didn’t want to leave and, in a fit, threw my glove into the dugout as I came off the field and he glanced up at me over his scorebook and said, “Do you want to sit out the next game, too?”

That’s all he needed to say, and I stewed quietly until the game was over. On the way home, he said, “I pulled you because you were playing blind. You don’t play blind. You’ll end up hurting yourself, or worse, someone else.”

I wasn’t sure what he meant. “I didn’t hit anybody,” I said.

“I didn’t say you were wild. I said you were playing blind. You got too emotional. You let your emotions get in the way of your abilities.” I knew he was right and thought about it for the rest of the summer and still think about it whenever I start feeling like breaking down and “playing blind.”

“You play smart, son. That’s how you win.”


My brother and I, abandoned by our biological father, were hurt, angry little boys when mom remarried and we weren’t quite ready for another man to claim us as his own. From left: Grandma Virginia Thurston Santmyer, Aunt Gretchen Newlon, mom and dad, Uncle MIck, Aunt 'Net at the Presbyterian Church in Laguna Beach.

We were hurt, angry little boys when mom remarried and we weren’t quite ready for another man to claim us as his own.
From left: Grandma Virginia Thurston Santmyer, Aunt Gretchen Newlon, mom and dad, Uncle Mick Radice and his wife, Aunt ‘Net, at the Presbyterian Church in Laguna Beach on their wedding day.

As mom says, we were lucky he took us under his wing, flawed as he might have been, and through him I learned the measure of a man, enough so that I grew fond of him, loved him, and eventually, as a boy of 8, started calling him “dad.”

His most manly asset, though, was his fierce devotion to mom, which counts for a lot in my book. That made him as big a man as any I’ve seen in my life. He took on the role of husband and father where most men might have fled in the other direction.

As an Old School Italian, he was intolerant of disrespect. Once, at the dinner table, my brother mouthed off to mom and dad reached over with his spoon and rapped him on the head. “You don’t talk to your mother that way, ever!” he scolded. While today that correction might be seen as abusive, we got the message loud and clear and never mouthed off to mom again.

He defended and protected her in ways that are only now becoming clear to me as I watch her adjust to widowed life after nearly 45 years of marriage. She seemed to have fewer cares then, he wouldn’t allow her to become anxious or worked up and made sure all her needs were well met. He doted on her.

I seldom heard dad argue with mom; their arguments, he’d say, weren’t anyone’s business but their own. That’s why, when they needed to discuss something that might get heated, they took their personal business behind closed doors. They never raised their voices with each other, at least not around my brother and me.

He assumed the full weight and responsibility of father for children who, at least in the beginning, were not his own, including major expenses such as making sure our teeth were properly straightened.

“There’s my new pickup truck,” he teased when friends came over, and he’d point at me, asking me to smile so they could see my new braces. “Show them my new truck.”

He’d have to wait a few more years before he finally got the truck he’d always wanted but in the meantime he took care of pressing family matters, sacrificing his personal wants, making sure we all had what we needed first.


My biological father, meanwhile, deserted us when I was four; he didn’t put any time or effort into getting to know me, or my brother. He paid us no attention. He was a ghost in my life, a non-person, essentially, whose only historical significance to me was that of sperm donor. As a young boy, I’d ask mom what happened to him.

“You’re better off without him,” she’d say. At first, I’d get mad at her for saying such things; I didn’t believe her. How could I be better off without the man who was supposed to be my father? A boy doesn’t understand these things. He assumes that by rights the man who made birth a possibility would also take an interest in his own children.

After a while, though, I figured she was right, that he probably didn’t care, and that indeed I was better off without him, so I forgot about him, except for the one random visit he made to our home when I was about 10 to discuss visitation arrangements with mom and my new dad.

That was the last time I ever saw him. I heard from him once more when I was in high school and he sent copies of the New World Translation of the Bible favored by Jehovah’s Witnesses to me and my brother.

I took my brother outside with our copies of the “bible,” and showed him how we would appreciate the gifts by placing them in the gutter, pouring on gasoline and setting them on fire. As we watched the thin pages of the bibles crinkle into twisted ash, my grandmother pulled up beside the curb to park her car. She sat staring over the steering wheel, horrified.

What are you doing?” she demanded as she got out of the car.

“Oh, hi grandma, don’t worry; it’s nothing, just burning those fake bibles Jim sent us.”

I’d gotten to calling him Jim because that’s what mom had always called him, never “your father,” whenever she talked about him, which was rare.

The strange thing was I hadn’t thought twice about burning those books, and didn’t realize the real horror of it until I saw grandma’s face when she drove up. No one in the family valued books more than she did, coming from a family of educators; her mother, Marie Harding Thurston, and aunt, Ruth Harding, both had schools named after them.

For me, it was a kind of purgation.

I wanted to be rid of those books, and the false religion, and the show of some kind of weak Christian love from a man who didn’t want to be a father to his children.

Not long after I was married, I thought of seeking him out, to ask him personally why he hadn’t taken an interest in his two sons, but it was too late. He died when I was 23. He was 45, and had started at least two more families besides the one he started with us.

At that point, it didn’t matter much whether we “hit it off” or got on well. I was more interested in finding out what sort of man he was, whether there were patterns and habits of mind that I might have inherited and whether there was anything about which I should be concerned.

But any such opportunity was crushed when mom spoke up casually one afternoon as she and my wife relaxed at the dining table drinking tea and coffee. I was cutting an apple by the sink. “Oh, by the way, Jim died.”

I didn’t expect it to hit me the way it did. I didn’t shed any tears, but it troubled me and left me feeling vacant. My wife graciously walked over and put her arm around me. I must have felt like a sack of potatoes.


I might not have picked my stepfather as the “ideal” model of a man for a young kid looking for a strong father figure, which is what I wanted as a terrified little boy. I would have picked someone like my biological father, whose pictures mom kept showed a man with a powerful, muscular build. My one earliest memory of him, in fact, is of him putting his fist through the bathroom wall.

I learned quickly, however, that my stepfather cared with the kind of devotion that shows real backbone. He made a lot of sacrifices, and paid us a lot of attention. He was our protector, even without the intimidating manly presence a young boy might want in a father.

I’d seen him fearlessly go after people who wronged him or who showed the slightest disrespect, people, for example, who parked their cars in the handicap zone he’d had the city paint on the curb nearest the front door so that grandma could get to her car without trouble.

He’d run out, no matter who it was, and he’d confront the offenders, directing them away from the painted curb. Even the scary looking guys complied.

CULTURE.me-and-dad“Dad, you gotta be careful these days,” I said once during a visit to the old neighborhood, “there are a lot of gang bangers passing through the area now.”

“I don’t care,” he said, “they don’t belong there.”

I seldom heard whatever he said to people as they rummaged through his trash on trash days; but he’d shoosh them away and off they’d go.

“I don’t want people digging through my trash or my recycle,” he’d say, sitting back down into his chair to read the morning newspaper. “I pay money for the city to come pick those up. If they want to dig through the trash, let them go to the dump.”

As a father myself, I determined as much as possible not to be like my biological father, who it seemed to me, quit when the family he created put demands on him that he wasn’t ready to meet. He became a flyboy. He fled, spawning more families along the way, leaving more abandoned, fatherless children in his path.

I swore that I would never do that to my child; that I would never flee from my responsibilities, that I would break the cycle, as much as possible, and try to be a meaningful manly presence in my daughter’s life. I failed on many levels to give her what she needed but she knows that I love her and will not abandon her. She’s the apple of my eye.

Without my stepfather’s example, though, I might never have known what it means to be a father. Over the years, I’ve tried to emulate his commitment and respect and love for family. Mom was right. We were lucky to have found him. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice.


Restless Love Syndrome

PITH.RESTLESS LOVE.YOUNGWe were so in love we couldn’t sleep,
so we got up and went walking in the
severe quiet of the pre-dawn cool, warm
morning, as Paul Weller would have it.

Hand in hand or not, we walked until
we had vanquished our new section
of town. It was ours now because we
were living together, by virtue of my

never leaving. We stopped for a 6am drink
at the 6am bar. The self-proclaimed best
omelet maker in town was there, dosing
himself with gin before the breakfast shift,

some others preparing for work, a couple
of drinkers beginning their long day of self-
sedation. We were the only couple in love,
smugly & newly & in need of this incipient

morning’s cocktail to quell the jitters of
ecstasy & moment. We had our drink
and walked slowly home into the triumphal
sunrise. I remember nothing of the day.

—Todd Young



“I don’t need friends. Fuck friends. I need pussy!”

The latest red-hot lover hits Lake Tahoe

1968 April

by Dell Franklin

I found a one-bedroom apartment in a triplex on the California side of Highway 50, a few miles from the south shore ensemble of casinos and hotels—a gorgeous spot among the pines, 50 yards from the lake. My landlord was JC Breedlove, who lived in an apartment on the other side of the one beside me, which was inhabited by truck driver Joe Lebeau and his wife and black Lab. Everything I owned was moved north in a VW I bought at a police auction after selling my Chevy to a man in Watts for $50.

Right off I was hired as a bar boy at Harrah’s Club casino. I was issued black slacks, two white shirts and a black tie. I was assigned to the large, rectangular Keno bar, the busiest bar in the house, and my job was to stock, wash glasses, replace empty bottles and canisters, empty ash trays, cut fruit, change water, keep the bar spotless. In short, I was a flunky never allowed to mix a drink, a gofer learning the business from the bottom up.

I was given the 3 to 11 evening shifts, worked hard and got on well with the bartenders, who were top pros, and heeded their advice and tutoring when they realized I wanted to be one of them as I scoped the cocktail waitresses in outfits revealing the most luscious breasts and asses and legs I’d yet glimpsed in person. One of the bartenders, Bob Brown, a blond matinee idol type around 30, decided to become by mentor. He had a wife and two kids, the wife a former cocktail waitress now working as an office person at Harrah’s after being demoted for growing fat. All the younger cocktail waitresses were after Bob and he was banging them steadily. His wife had wised up and wanted a divorce. He confided in me that he no longer desired his wife and that most of the older cocktail waitresses were ruthless money-grubbers disillusioned with men and there wasn’t “hardly one who wasn’t a can of worms when you opened them up, but they all wanna fuck, and the best way to make in-roads with them is in the employees’ cafeteria and lounge.”

I was so far biding my time, observing some of the lower level Keno-runners and change girls, wondering how I could casually move in on these gals in the cafeteria. Once, when Bob and I sat together on a break, he introduced me to Megan, a divorced cocktail waitress around 30 who issued me a fleeting smile and turned immediately to a bartender from the casino bar. It was obvious these women were not interested in callow bar boys gazing at their endowments in a drooling trance.

One afternoon on my day off, as I read the LA Times in the sun in front of my new digs, a huge Husky named Duke, who lived with a large family down the street, shoved his cold nose on my arm and peered up at me with piercing gray eyes. Joe Lebeau came over and said, “He doesn’t warm up to many folks, looks like he’s partial to you. That family of his don’t pay him the time of day. He goes off for a week at a time and scavenges, raids chicken coops…he’s been shot at and got buckshot in his ass. He ain’t a pet. He’s got that Alaskan wolf in him.”

No animal or human had ever looked at me like Duke did, and he was my immediate best friend, waiting for me to get off work, going for walks with me, sleeping on my porch. JC Breedlove, who had no dog, came by one morning. He drove a dusty jeep and spotless red Porsche and was tall and sandy-haired and very relaxed, almost insouciant, and Joe LeBeau, who’d rented from him for years, said he was a world-class skier who’d been an alternate on the Olympic team 15 years back, didn’t work, owned this triplex and other properties and investments, spent summers playing tennis and fishing, and skied all over the hot spots like Aspen in winter, and had literally fucked every show girl, dancer and cocktail waitress worth fucking in Lake Tahoe.

JC grinned at me, observing my rusty old VW. “So how’s the latest red-hot lover in Lake Tahoe doing?” he asked. “Making out?” He had to know that so far I’d spent every night home by myself. I’d seen him walk a new beauty to her or his car nearly every morning, kiss them and watch them drive off, or drive them home, and he always made it a point to wave at me as I read my paper.

“I’m workin’ on things, JC. Got a few skillets in the fire.”

“I see that tennis racket in your car. You any good?”

“I’m not very athletic, JC. Probably wouldn’t have a chance against a stud like you.” He was about six-foot-four, Hollywood handsome and oozed self-confidence. “But I’m probably a better tennis player than a red-hot lover.”

He laughed. “Hey, it’s only a matter of time before a good looking kid like yourself starts reelin’ ‘em in. I mean, if you can’t land ‘em here, yah can’t land ‘em anywhere.”


The cocktail waitresses were all on intimate terms with the bartenders, and ignored me as much at the bar as in the cafeteria, except for Ginger, a tall, long-legged blonde with a substantial high-shelved rack. She wore glistening ruby red lipstick and caked-on make-up and black fishnet hose, talked in a slow Southern drawl and, unlike the other waitresses, who would literally fight over a big tipper at craps and blackjack tables, was genuinely sweet and the most generous tipper to bartenders. She was the only one to smile at me and hold that smile when I hovered near the service station when a bartender mixed her a drink.

Bob Brown informed me she was “sucking off” fellow bartenders, including him once, a pit boss, dealers, and a security guard. He saw my jaw drop. “She likes to give blowjobs. She won’t fuck. Maybe she’s afraid to get knocked up. But she gives world-class head. You should go after her. She’s not a bitch like the rest of ‘em. Dell, you buy her a couple gin-and-tonics and she’ll give you hellacious head all night long.”

I wanted more than head all night long. I liked Ginger. I wanted to nuzzle her, suck those magnificent creamy tits, lather her pussy with my drippy tongue, and fuck her with triumphant passion and tenderness. I considered asking her to join me in the wee hours at the lounge show at the Sahara casino down the street, where Louie Prima and Keely Smith entertained in the wee hours. I savored the thought of us hanging out together and forging a relationship. So I bided my time, anticipating the perfect opportunity in asking her out, and hung out every night after work at the Keno bar with free drink tickets and talked to a chunky but pretty 22-year-old blonde Keno runner from Portland, Oregon, Gwen, who’d just graduated from Oregon State and was going to be a high school English teacher. She lived in a nearby cabin with her best friend, was pleasant, loved talking about literature and traveling. I confided in her I was a writer, and she wanted to see my work, but I could hardly show her a manuscript titled, “The Woman Hater,” which was filled with misogynist vitriol.

I bought her drinks with my tickets. I lit her cigarettes. One night I asked her to drive around the lake with me, since there was a full moon. She said she’d love to. We drove a while and stopped alongside the lake and sat on some rocks to watch the moonlight shimmer on the lake. When I put my arm around her waist, she stiffened. At the end of the drive I walked her to the door of her cabin and tried to filch a kiss but she held me at bay.

“Please don’t,” she pled. “”Can’t we just be friends?”

“I wanna be more than friends,” I croaked. “You’re a beautiful woman.”

“Oh I am not. I’m a plain Jane. You just want to sleep with me, because you’re horny. I just like being your friend, because you’re such a nice guy, and our talks are so interesting. You’re the only guy around who’s not about money, and gambling, and drugs….” She offered me a winsome smile, pecked me on the cheek and dashed into her cabin.

The following night at the Keno bar she sat down beside me and for the first time I did not buy her a drink or light her cigarette. She asked was I mad at her because she wouldn’t sleep with me, and I said yes, and downed a shooter of bourbon. She started to cry and I got up and walked over to a blackjack table, after being warned by Brown that the casino got back 60 percent of their employees’ earnings on the tables, and won $500 after spending four hours counting cards and felt much better after returning home at 6 in the morning.

Later on, perched in my chair drinking coffee, JC walked another dazzling beauty to her car. When she was gone, I waved him over and handed him $400, which covered my rent through August. Standing over me, he said, “Looks like Tahoe’s latest red-hot lover’s the hottest red-hot gambler, ey? Well, be careful, kiddo—sometimes winning right off’s the worst thing to happen to a guy. And hey,” he grinned conspiratorially, “ready to gamble some of that lucre on the tennis courts, stud? Say…twenty bucks a set?”

“Catch me when I get some sleep, dude.” I said. He gave me a long disappointing look and took off on his daily two-mile run through the woods, an accomplished man’s man in his prime, a near-perfect specimen in perfect shape—local legend.


June arrived and I still hadn’t gotten laid, though I was becoming chummier with Ginger, making her laugh, thrilled when she sat down beside me with her tray in the cafeteria and not fellow cocktail waitresses who did everything to sabotage her shifts and tables so as to squeeze her out of the big money and talked disparagingly about her drawl, her alluring shake of a walk, her make-up—a gaggle of vicious hens pecking away at a sweet, ripe chicken. She was from Memphis, and had come to Lake Tahoe to “get away from home and seek a little adventure.”  I told her of my desire to hitch-hike around the country and maybe the world, and work on a riverboat on the Mississippi River, like Mark Twain. She told me, “Ah jes’ luuuuve lis’nin t’ yawl, honey. Yawl’s so funny, just a doll.”

One night Bob and I ran into Ginger and the three of us went to the Sahara lounge show. When Bob excused himself early, winking at me, I asked Ginger out. She said she liked steak and I invited her for a barbecue at my place, and afterwards, “We could hit the cabarets.”

“Yawl sooooo gallant. A jes’ love that in a man.”

I bought two steaks, red potatoes, a bottle of gin, and picked Ginger up at the casino bar in Harrah’s. She wore heels, a red mini-skirt with black fishnet hose, and a red sweater. On a gorgeous evening, I started the barbecue around 7. Duke was there, and he nosed right up to Ginger, courtly, sweet. We sat in sun chairs, sipping gin and tonics. JC, heading for his Porsche, spotted us, ambled over, grinning. “You devil,” he said, beaming. “Looks like you’re entertaining the best looking gal in town.” After I introduced them, JC, like a fond uncle, said, “You take care of my boy now. He’s a fine lad.” We watched him zoom off in a cloud of dust.

The steaks and potatoes turned out perfect, and we shared them with Duke. Ginger raved about how beautiful it was and how lucky I was to live here and I asked her what she wanted to do with her life, and she said she eventually wanted marriage and a family after she sewed her wild oats, and when I told her of my desire to write novels she said, “Yawl still gonna be Ginger’s friend when yawl famous and they make movies from yawl’s books?”

“I’d like to be more than your friend, Ginger.”

“Yawl so sweet.”

We had several drinks. When it cooled, we sat on the furnished davenport and I kissed her. She kissed back, touching the back of my neck, and I nibbled her cheeks and neck, touched her breast, felt her shudder. I found myself lifting her skirt and tried to slide my finger into her pussy and she jumped up as if electrocuted.

“What yawl DO’in, Day’uhl? What kind-a girl yawl thank ah am?” She straightened her skirt. “Ah’m a propah suth’un lady.”

“That’s not what I heard. I heard you’ve fucked just about every guy at Harrah’s.”

She broke into tears. I sat quivering. “That is an awful lie…who told yawl them horrible lies?”

“Everybody gets it from Ginger, is what I heard, except me.”

“Oh God,” she sobbed. “A thought yawl was my friend.”

“I don’t need friends. Fuck friends. I need pussy!”

She stormed outside, a broken giraffe. I followed her. She got into my VW and demanded a ride home. Duke stared at me with concern. I took the bottle of gin to my sun chair and guzzled from it. Ginger held her face and cried in chest-quaking spasms, then jumped out and took off in her high heels.

“Nogood rotten bastard!” she screamed.

I finished off the gin and passed out on the couch and woke up with a head that felt like it had been clubbed. It was noon before I was in my sun chair, in the shade, Duke beside me. JC walked Ginger to his Porsche. While opening the door, he spotted me and shook his head slowly. I went into the house and tried to write, but all I could do was cry, and after I finished crying I went back out to sit with Duke until JC returned and ambled over.

“How yah feelin,’ stud?”

“Wonderful,” I sneered.

“Gotta watch the booze, kiddo—leads to bad decisions and foul behavior. Myself, I only have a few, keeps me in control.” He issued me his favorite fond uncle grin. “Ready for some tennis—say twenty bucks?”

I went for my racket. I was in sneakers, without socks. We drove to the local clay courts in his jeep and began warming up. It was a very hot day, the sun at its zenith, and sweat gushed out of me. Joe had fine strokes, as if he’d taken lessons, but he was not agile nor a scrambler. I had quick feet and good hands from being a baseball infielder and won the first few games by leaping and diving all over the courts. I sensed his frustration as he dashed back and forth and lunged at the net, swiped futilely at passing shots or galloped backwards awkwardly after lobs. Tennis was more my game, not his, and I let him get close; then closed him out in two sets, shaking hands at the net. He was not happy.

“I’ll get you back next time,” he said. “My serve wasn’t on today.”

“Hey, I gotta win at something, huh?”

He put his arm around me as we walked off. “I’ve watched you for months now, and you’re a mess, kiddo. I fear for you.”

“Guess I got a lot to learn.”

“Well, you don’t need to be doing it the hard way.”

“Guess things come kind of easy for you, huh?”

“Always have, good buddy.”

“Except in tennis, ey?”

He flashed me a hard look as we sat in his jeep, then peeled two twenties from a wad and handed it over. The drive back was silent.


I gave up trying to get laid and upped my drinking and hit the blackjack tables. Free drinks arrived at the tables after drinking several tickets at the bar and sometimes I didn’t return to my apartment until dawn or late morning. I was usually sleep-deprived and hungover behind the bar and found myself giddy and became a cut-up, life of the party, keeping the bartenders amused and often laughing throughout my shifts. The bartenders sometimes paused to gaze at me with expressions I took as questioning my sanity.

My after-work drinking/gambling became a sort of siege of the body and soul. In the employees’ lounge, I ignored wholesome white college sorority girls from the Midwest who were summer recruits to cocktail or run Keno or host or make change for slot machine players and were hit on in the ongoing and exploding sexual grab-bag by white All-American college fraternity boys from the Midwest who were recruited as bar boys and bus boys and Keno runners who partied and got laid while I sulked over Robert Kennedy’s assassination and drove around the Lake with Duke on that hellish night and stalled on my novel and felt the sting of Ginger stiffening in my presence and gritting her teeth.

I became a slave to the tables and ate deep into my bank account. Brown warned me to cease gambling. I had so little money that I used my tips to eat in the cafeteria and had hot dogs at home, if I ate at all. One night after work I hit the blackjack table with about $40 and within an hour had a grand. I’d been betting rashly when on a cold streak, and cowardly when I was hot, a loser. This time, when I got hot I ran with it, and no feeling in life compared to being so torrid you knew which card was coming, the heat escalating to blinding white fever, turning me momentarily bullet-proof and immune from the continual impression I had of myself as repulsive to women and waking up each morning with a painful hard-on and an empty bed.

I kept gambling, built my stack up to $1,500. I lost two hands and quit and had a drink at the Keno bar where the graveyard bartender, Wilkie, told me to “get my butt home.” Instead I went down to the Sahara and spent the morning losing it. I went back to Harrah’s and cashed my paycheck and lost it and borrowed $20 from a bartender at the Keno bar and lost it and later found myself waiting for the bank to open, only to realize I’d drained my account. So I drove to the electric company and withdrew my deposit and returned to Harrah’s and built it up to around $500 and lost it, hurried home, showered, dressed, went to work, made $35 in tips, lost it, went to the parking lot to discover my car wouldn’t start and, in front of beautiful college couples, arms around each other, kicked the car, jumped upon and crushed the hood in a cursing rage, returned to the Keno bar and tried to borrow from Brown and Fordyke and Holliday, who refused to loan me anything, so I hitchhiked home and collapsed.

Woke up on my day off and borrowed $5 from Joe Lebeau and walked a mile to the market for hot dogs, shared them with Duke and was about to doze off in my sun chair when I discovered a show-stopping statuesque redhead dancer from the Sahara sunning herself in a string bikini in front of JC’s apartment. JC came out, spotted me, grinned.

“Hey, you red-hot lover, ready to let me get my money back in tennis?”

I went for my racket. We drove to the tennis courts in JC’s jeep, the redhead sitting up front, the scent of her perfume having a delirious affect on me. The day was blazing hot. While we warmed up, the redhead sat on a chair holding a parasol. The match started and I attacked the net and ran Joe like a frothing dog. I gasped for breath and didn’t care if I died. I beat him the first set and gave him a vicious thrashing the second, at one point coming to the net when he made a weak backhand lob and slamming the ball into his chest. He gulped for breath as his redhead held both hands to her breasts in dramatic fashion. On one knee, he rose and nodded slowly in recognition of retaliation and revenge from a desperate man with nothing to lose.

After I polished him off, we shook hands at the net and he paid me off on the ride back, the redhead doting on JC, who was irksome. I walked to the local market for a case of Brown Derby beer and two sirloins to share with Duke, who now followed me everywhere, even to the market.


My regimen now consisted of working, drinking afterwards and blowing my tips on the tables, hitchhiking home, walking Duke down to and along the lake, and crashing. Fellow employees regarded me furtively. I hung with no one. I was warned by a senior bar boy to get a haircut and clean the crud off my tie. I threatened to strangle him and he scurried away.

One morning, around 2, I was hitchhiking home along Highway 50 when a car pulled alongside me and stopped. Inside was my father. He was 54, and owned a thick neck and meaty face with a thrice broken nose and eyes that were savvy, tough and missed nothing. Driving me home, he almost growled, “Your eyes look like piss-holes in the snow. You’ve lost at least twenty pounds. You look like a goddamn scarecrow. What the hell’ve you been doing to yourself? You haven’t turned to drugs, like the rest of these pussies, have you?”

“Of course not. I’m still your son.”

He heaved a huge sigh of relief. “I’m here because I checked your bank account after not hearing from you for months and saw that it was empty. I had a bad feeling. Looks to me like you’ve been on a drinking/gambling crusade.”

I nodded.

“Took me an hour to find your place. The damndest thing happened—I’m trying to look in the window, and I feel a big nose up my ass. I thought a bear had me. I turn around and it’s the biggest goddamn dog I’ve ever seen. He must be your friend, because he liked my smell. Helluva a dog. We had a nice visit.”

I explained that Duke was my devoted pal. Back at the apartment dad hauled in his overnight bag and howled, “Jesus Christ, this place stinks, and where’s the goddamn lights?” He worked a switch.

I lit a couple candles in the kitchen. “Gambled away the deposit.”

“What about water? You can’t live without water!”

“I got cold water, Dad. I’ve adjusted, like the Army.”

“This place is like the black hole of Calcutta.” He sat at the kitchenette which was littered with paper cups, paper plates, newspapers, napkins, wrappers, etc., and watched me plunk down on the sofa and remove my chewed-up low quarters. “I didn’t raise you to live like this.” He was getting emotional.

“I live as I choose, dad. It’s my life.”

“You won’t last long in life going on like this.”

I got up and walked into my bedroom and collapsed into a deep sleep. I awoke before noon and entered the living room, which was spotless, the lights on, coffee on the gas range, dad at the kitchenette, petting Duke. I sat down across from them with coffee.

“You didn’t have to do this, dad.”

“Finish your coffee and then let’s get some food in you, boy.”

We drove to a nearby diner and dad bought bunkhouse breakfasts and afterwards we went to the Harrah’s parking lot where my car had accumulated a month of dust, tree sap and bird shit. Dad was aghast at the crushed hood. “Looks like I raised a goddamn psycho.”

He had the car towed and mechanics put in a new battery and alternator. He followed me back to the triplex. We sat in the kitchen. Duke sat beside me. Dad gazed at me. I was his only son and he staked his life on me. His eyes grew moist and his face was etched with pain.

“I guess I don’t understand a lot of things,” he said. “Here you were a great prospect headed to the major leagues, and you fuck that up, and now you wanna be a writer? It doesn’t make sense. But it’s your life, and Dell, I got faith in you. Truth is, I’m proud of you for going against the grain. It takes guts to do what you’re doing. Thing is, I don’t want it to drive you to where you are now any more than baseball did.” He pushed a tear from his cheek. “Don’t be too hard on yourself, son. I know your heart, and you’re gonna pull out of this mess…by God, you’re my blood.”

It had been so long since we’d embraced, an act I’d always shunned as the tough son of a tough father, but we hugged. Then I walked him out to his rental. He had a long drive to Reno and the plane to LA. He petted Duke, grinned at me. “You made a good friend here. I’m thankful for that.”

We watched him drive off. He’d given me a $20 bill and warned me not to blow it on booze or gambling, but to eat. I went to my supervisor and asked for as much work as possible and since it was the height of the tourist season he gave me seven shifts a week and 12-hour shifts on weekends. I worked 35 straight nights and after each one I walked past the bar and the gaming tables and drove home to walk Duke and afterwards plunged into deep, dreamless sleep. I saved every penny until I paid off my debts and amassed a sizable nest-egg and informed my supervisor I was finished in October. I was headed to San Francisco, where the odds of getting laid were much better due to the high gay population, so I thought.

Before leaving, I cornered Ginger. “I want to apologize,” I said. “You are the nicest person in this damn snake pit, Ginger. I had you all wrong. I can’t bear to hurt you, and have you hate me. Please forgive me, you beautiful, sweet Southern belle. I’m sorry.”

“Oh Day’uhl,” she said, and actually touched my cheek “Yawl was the only boy ah wanted all along. But yawl’s so hungry…a man so hungry scares a girl.”

Back at the triplex, my car packed, Joe Lebeau and  JC and I shook hands. JC put his arm around my shoulders and walked me to the car.

“Gonna miss yah, kid. One of these days I expect to walk through an airport and see a best-seller by the greatest red-hot lover ever to hit Lake Tahoe.” He grinned and winked, and I laughed, and said, “Thanks for the tough love, JC.”

Duke had watched me nervously all morning. I knelt down beside my car and hugged him and he emitted a sound I’d never heard before, a deep, brief moan, and a shudder, and he snatched my forearm in his jaws and bit down hard, just hard enough to let me know how he felt.

I jumped into my car and took off. JC and Joe waved. Duke followed me half a block at a trot, then stopped when I turned the corner. Halfway to San Francisco, I still saw him in my rearview mirror—imperious lone wolf, eyes piercing, my best friend. §

Dell Franklin is the founding publisher of The Rogue Voice and writes from his home in Cayucos, Calif., where getting laid happens almost every day.

How beautiful it is

She abused me
for good and bad

and I hurt
her more than she

hurt me.

It’s such an intimate
thing to be taken

that way
to let someone else

have control

until it hurts
so much

you cry out
stop! or harder


until you lose
your mind

swimming in the pain
thinking how beautiful it is.

 —Stacey Warde



I pick her up in the Fairlane and we go up on this hill overlookin’ town, by this old castle that is like a fort, back when folks lived off the land.

by Dell Franklin

Verona, Italy 1966

I figure somebody lookin’ after Paladin Johnson when they send his black ass to the 25th Army field hospital in Verona, Italy, the summer of l966, when troops is gettin’ bumped off by the bushel in ‘Nam.

I don’t know nothin’ about Italy. I only know my ghetto in Cleveland, Hough. I runnin’ in the streets, always in trouble, a mess for my momma to deal with, a bigger mess for my teachers to deal with, so finally they kick my ass out of school and judge tell me either I get my ass in the army or go to the slammer.

In the army, I bring with me some cocky street jive, wantin’ everybody know I’m a bad dude, but it ain’t long ‘fore them drill sergeants beat my ass down like I some kind of turkey, though I would never be a punk.

First time I get off post I just walk. It’s nothin’ like I picture in my head. So old, and crumbly, some places still broken up from bombs in the war. And the folks, these Italians, they like to sit around these cafes called TRATTORIAS and gabble and wave they hands, getting ’all riled, like everything a big deal.

Walkin’ through Verona nothin’ like walkin’ through white Cleveland, or downtown, where niggers all over the place and everybody look at you like you gon pull a job, snatch a purse, you know, bad news dude. In Verona, I one of the only black dudes walkin’ around, and Italians gawk at me like they curious, not scared, like they maybe wanna find out who I am and what I’m about.

Ain’t long before First Sergeant McCray got me trained all over the dispensary and put me in charge of the shot room, and that’s where I meet new trooper Thomas, we bros right off, he difficult, always scowlin’, actin’ bad, angry at white folks, readin’ Malcolm X. He bitch to McCray about honkies getting’ better duty and promotion, thinkin’ cuz McCray black he gonna give him a break, but Top don’t stand for no jive. Top treat me good, and he treat my white buds, Ruffner and DeSimone, good, too, cuz they stand-up and cool.

In fact, I got to know Maria DeRia, little lady work the post snack bar and bowlin’ alley, through these two honkies. When I go to the snack bar with Ruff and Dee for a burger, I got my eye on DeRia, workin’ behind the counter. She what you call pixie-cute, so tiny, not 5-foot-tall, older lady, maybe 30, but got her a fine little ass in that white uniform, and I always practice my Italian on DeRia, try and impress her, and I guess cuz I butcherin’ the language she think it funny, you know, cute, and she laugh, and give me extra fries with my burger, and when she smile and laugh them little lines around her eyes crinkle up and her whole face light up. She ain’t got perfect features, and she got a crooked tooth, but she beautiful and I know she sweet inside.

DeRia married, got her a 12-year-old girl. I find this out askin’ in my Italian. I don’t ever speak English to DeRia, though she speak some cuz she been workin’ this post snack bar 10 years.

Sometime Tom join me and Ruff and Dee at the bowlin’ alley, where they got dime beers. None of us bowl. Only four lanes. We go cuz DeRia workin’ at night. She give out bowlin’ shoes and sell beer and pop and snacks and make burgers. Only four stools at her little bar, and some time we all talkin’ to DeRia at the same time, butcherin’ Italian, teasin’ her, tellin’ her she sexy, and beautiful, I love you, caro mia, bella amore, and she laugh and tease back, she wear a nice skirt and sweater when she work the alley, and comb her short black hair and put on make-up, she know we like her a lot and all want her and we all bettin’ who gon sleep with her first, though ain’t no GI slept with this fine lady, so is the word on post. She a church woman. Catholic.

Well, one night I come in alone while everybody else working and bring her roses. DeRia look at these flowers, sniff them, hold them to her heart, and almost cry, and she say, “Johnson, you really love me, caro bello?”

“Si, Maria DeRia, mi bella.” I say. “Amore molto.” Then I make her laugh. She glowin’. I make her laugh again, and she still smellin’ them roses, and she look deep in me, and she say, “We make love tonight, Paladin. I like you very much. You are nicest American boy I know in all my time I work here.”

I go to the dispensary and get hold of Ruff and Dee, workin’ the graveyard, ask can I borrow the Ford Fairlane they own together and Dee flip me the keys. They don’t believe I got DeRia. I been in Verona a year and only been to two whores, both downtown. Ain’t no Italian chick goin’ out with me less I take the whole family along and they watchin’ like a hawk I don’t touch her.

So after DeRia close the alley she walk off post and I pick her up in the Fairlane and we go up on this hill overlookin’ town, by this old castle that is like a fort, back when folks lived off the land, and we got out two army blankets my two buds keep for such occasions, and DeRia and me make love. Man, she is a biddy thing, but all woman, and one hot kisser, she kiss me like no woman has, no tongue or anything like that, but just kissin’ and holdin’ and scratchin’ and bitin’ my lips, and when I inside her and kissin’ her pretty face she talkin’ to me, she yell AMORE, AMORE, oh, Paladin, AMORE, screamin’ that word when I come, and I know DeRia love me and I love her.

We start talkin’. She say her husband over 40 and fat, all he do is go to soccer games and argue soccer and drink espresso all day and vino at night and eat pasta in the little trattoria they own in their neighborhood. He too lazy work the trattoria. DeRia work days and nights on post and then she work the trattoria nights off while fatty drink and argue soccer, like this kind-a carryin’ on better than a woman.

Anyway, I drop DeRia off a block from home and I feelin’ so fine. I got my shot room where I boss. Topkick McCray in my corner. I get on with everybody, got two honkey friends like brothers. They slam my back and grinnin’ at me when I back after midnight, almost like family.

But Thomas, he angry, and scowlin’, sulkin’, say DeRia nothin’ but a white bitch, and we got at it, I pin his ass and wag a finger and he know I fuck him up, so he sag, and he angry with me, but that’s okay, cuz if he ain’t got nothin’ good to say, well, stay away.

Dee and Ruff, they let me borrow the Fairlane when I got nights off and DeRia sneak off, and we go to our hill and sip some vino from her bar and she cuddle right up to me, like she mine, and she is sweet, and so clean, and she love me and ain’t afraid to say so, she love me so much she cry every time after we make love, cuz she got to go home to old fatty, don’t touch her, don’t care about nothin’ but hangin’ out with his soccer buds.


So now I diggin’ Verona. It is beautiful. A river run through it, and there’s this old coliseum downtown been bombed in the war. Across from this big old wide street with all kind-a traffic, you can sit at a café or trattoria on the Piazza Bra, which is like a promenade, and look at the coliseum, and hear the opera on summer nights. Piazza Bra go for blocks and ain’t nothin’ on it but cafes and trattorias with tables and chairs outside, and folks crowded up in ‘em. Folks walkin’ up and down the Piazza Bra past the tables, like they frontin’ at a parade. Girls arm and arm, girls and moms arm and arm, old folks and young folks arm in arm, even men arm and arm, jabberin’, wavin’ they hands. Back and forth.

Sometime, when the weather nice in the evening, I walk back and forth, only black dude, they all watchin’, but I don’t care, I diggin’ the ALFRESCO VIDA, big time, lookin’ for an empty table, though I can’t afford one, and one evening, when I paradin’, I hear a voice I know callin’ out: “Hey you, heroic and knightly champion, get your ass over here!”

I look over and it’s Dee and Ruff drinkin’ vino. They know me so well they call me heroic and knightly champion, which mean Paladin, the reason momma name me so.

I sit down. They drinkin’ Bardolino red vino cuz they makin’ cash on the side sellin’ smokes and gas and oil and whatever they get their hands on to Italians on the black market. I am their guest. A stiff waiter, all proper and dressed, puts a glass in front of me and pours me some vino. I am a black dude with two honkies and ain’t nobody else like us here and ain’t nobody got a problem with us. We are tight and cool. We talk and carry on. We get another bottle and feel the buzz and decide to visit DeRia half a mile away at her trattoria in the poor part of town.

The trattoria jammed with soccer crazies screamin’ at each other and wavin’ at the TV. DeRia see us and she look unhappy and worried, shake her head, but we go on up and order Bordolino and she ignore us. We see her hubby, fat, bald, loud, need a shave. We leave and DeRia won’t look at us, so next night at the alley I bring her red roses and she cry and that night we go to our hill and make love and she tell me she love me so much it break her heart. I feel the same. I wonder if when I go home there will ever be another woman in my heart like DeRia. I don’t think so, cuz there ain’t no woman in America like these Italian women. When they love you there ain’t no maybe so and it run deep, they don’t care about your color or how much bread you make or how cool your threads are or what you drivin’ down the street, they don’t be frettin’ over circumstances, they just love your ass forever.

Couple months before my discharge I’m thinkin’ about DeRia. She is my true love but she ain’t leavin’ her husband and kid. She a Catholic. I can’t take her home and I can’t stay here cuz there’s nothin’ in Italy if I ain’t in the army. Dee go home and Ruff go home and they GIVE me the Fairlane, cuz it ain’t worth much and they can’t afford take across the ocean. So DeRia and me, we goin’ hot and heavy. She get a day off and I get a day off and we take the Fairlane out to Lake Garda and drive all around this beautiful romantic lake, hills and mountains and terraces with vineyards all around us, stop and have vino in little towns like Riva and Garda City and Sermione, sit outside at cafes on the lake, everybody nice to us, and we take a blanket on some hill above the lake and make love under the sun, and DeRia, she cry and tell me, “Paladin, caro mio, you so bello, you like a Michelangelo statue in Rome, mi vida.” She cryin’, and cryin’, cuz I got to go home to America, and when I think about leavin’ Verona, and my gig in the shot room, and my car, and Lake Garda, and DeRia, it bust up my heart, cuz there ain’t nothin’ go home to that I like in Hough but momma, and family, but that’s all, ain’t nothin’back there but trouble, but I got no choice.

What I gon do? I can stay in the army, but then I go to Nam and get my ass shot, and I ain’t stayin’ in the army anyhow, cuz you got to kiss too many asses and they own your ass, all they do is fuck with you, like Topkick McCray tell me.

Top and Doc Graves, they say I should go back to school and be a nurse. “Use the GI bill,’ says Graves. “You are a smart man, Paladin. Don’t sell yourself short.”

Week before I leave I got no duties and DeRia cryin’ all the time. She cry when she see me in the snack bar, she cry when I come in the bowlin’ alley, she got to leave work and go cry, won’t come back ‘til I’m gone. We make love the night before I leave and she cryin’, hug me so hard it hurt, tellin’ me her life was rotten before she met me and since we been lovers she happy all the time, and now she got to be unhappy again, and she think her life be lonely and sad from here on, like there nothin’ to look forward to anymore, just her fat old husband don’t touch her, and I feel so bad for DeRia, cuz there ain’t nothin’ I can say make her stop cryin’, and I’m cryin’, too, cuz I know what I feel for her ain’t gon happen again the way it happen with us. Oh, it will happen again, but it won’t be so perfect and funny and peaceful and deep like it is with DeRia, who I call my “poverina.” Poor little thing.

But I got to leave. Next day I’m gone. Everybody I know well gone home, just Thomas hangin’ around, got four months left, still grumblin’ and scowlin’ and bitchin’ about how he from South Philly and he a bad-ass. He carry my duffel bag and walk me to the bus take me to Milano for the airplane to America.

“My car is yours, good bud,” I tell him. “Y’all start smilin’ an’ get yo’ sorry ass some leg and sweet lovin’, good brother.”

“I do that now I got the pussy-mobile. Thank you, my man. Love.”

“Love you too.”

I take the lonely bus to Milano and I’m so sad. I already missin’ DeRia. I get to New York and then fly to Cleveland and go to the ghetto and it so strange, I wish I got me my DeRia. But I ain’t got no DeRia. I never will again. Italy is over for me. I get a job drivin’ an ambulance, pickin’ up the bleedin’ and broken folks, the dyin’ and the dead. I go to school nights and get my high school diploma and start nursin’ school, gon be a nurse, and do good, gon have a life, right here in Hough. It’s poorer, sadder, everybody angry, wantin’ burn the mothafucker down. I ain’t the same dude runnin’ in the streets, getting’ in trouble. I’m a man. Thank you, sergeant McCray, and all my cool buds I never forget, and thank you, Maria DeRia, I love you little thing, my poverina, ‘til they take me away. §

Dell Franklin worked many years as a bartender at Happy Jack’s in Morro Bay, once considered one of the roughest fishermen’s bars on the West Coast. He’s the founding publisher of The Rogue Voice, and author of The Ball Player’s Son.

Blind love

Together they tap the ground, safely passing sign posts and cement benches, the blind lovingly leading the blind, in perfect tender unison. Photo By Stacey Warde

Together they tap the ground, safely passing sign posts and cement benches, the blind lovingly leading the blind, in perfect tender unison. Photo By Stacey Warde

I want to do with you what spring does with the cherry trees. —Pablo Neruda

by Stacey Warde

At the Camarillo Amtrak station a young blind couple, walking arm-in-arm, slide the red tips of their seeing-eye canes along the platform next to the train.

The tips of their canes make a parallel search of the ground, tapping out the echoes of potential obstacles, swinging this way and that. Between the sliding sticks the pair are joined at their elbows.

I watch them from my vantage point above, through the window where I’m sitting on Train 777, or “Triple Seven,” as the conductor says in his announcements.

They have just stepped off the train heading north and west where the sun is beginning its low descent over the Pacific Ocean.

The setting sun casts an orange glow on their faces. Together they tap the ground, safely passing sign posts and cement benches, the blind lovingly leading the blind, in perfect tender unison.

I’ve never seen a blind couple as this making their way together. When I’ve observed the blind, often they have been alone, or accompanied by a service dog or friend whose vision is not impaired.

The pair turns tentatively toward the road, scouting the audibles, as a yellow cab slowly passes by, and they pause momentarily as if to hail the driver but another couple flags the car for themselves. How do they know that it is a cab? What bit of information causes them to turn at the same time to pursue what they cannot see?

They walk so closely and intimately that their bodies and minds seem as one. It’s a stunning scene. It’s touching. How did two blind intimates find each other? What brought them together? Did they meet in school? At a support group for the blind?

Their closeness, their intimate knowing and safety in being together unseats me, penetrates the armor I’ve worn to avoid the history and hurt of broken intimacies. An aching, bleeding feeling, as if something has begun to melt, washes through me, beginning inside of my chest.

My eyes well up with tears and, like the couple below, I put on a pair of dark sunglasses. I don’t want anyone to see my eyes. I don’t want anyone to know that I’m having a breakdown on the train. I want to avoid the appearance of a touched middle-aged man.

As Triple Seven pulls away from the platform, I watch the pair in a final desperate attempt to see what happens to them, and feel the cauldron of losses bubbling inside of me, streams of tears burning down my face.

Perhaps I’m romanticizing the idea of a blind love that isn’t blind at all but sees everything, knows everything, and moves in unison with the melodious voices of departing passengers, the low hum of cars in the distance, the passing of a cab, and the shared need to find a safe passage home.

Perhaps I’m a fool for thinking that such passage gains more from the company of another who is willing to share the risks and responsibilities of navigating through the darkness, guided by some other light that cannot be seen.

This coupling desire to be joined at the elbows and to walk in unison with another in a different kind of blind trust doesn’t go away easily, not even after one has passed his prime and love can seem so cruel and foolish.

“When does it stop?” I asked a friend once. “When do you stop wanting the company of a woman? When do you stop feeling like there needs to be another?”

“A great love poet,” he responded, “once said that it wasn’t until he was 70 that he realized the feminine no longer had power over him.”

It’s not merely the feminine, however, that haunts and wields power over me. Something more than charms and pleasure has broken through the walls of my resistance to love.

What moves me now is the formidable intimate knowing that is built on trust, the eagerness to hold space with another, even when there is darkness all around, the willingness to traverse obstacles despite the handicaps, to do with that one what spring does with the cherry trees.

The dark sunglasses do not hide my tears. I remove them to pat my cheeks dry with the sleeve of my jacket. Amtrak Triple Seven roars into the night and my view outside the window is blurred from blinding tears. §

Stacey Warde is publisher of The Rogue Voice