Friday, February 22, 2008

the Dream That Got Away

As a young boy, fantasies of adulthood life were fueled by a ready supply of idealized role models waiting in the wings of my vivid imagination. Asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I had a ready answer which would change from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour. In retrospect, my choice of daily activities were an even greater, if less articulated, indication of what the future could hold. It seems obvious now that one of my great interests was archeology and the exploration of history. I was forever excavating the yard for remnants of earlier times and was fascinated with anything old, the more worn the better. When my digs were unproductive I was undeterred, I would then bury things to ‘find’ the next day.

My best ‘digs’ took place in my parents bedroom when they were away from the house, however. I adored rooting through the big cedar chest under my parents front windows to see the treasure trove hidden beneath the blankets, newspaper clippings, photos, risque Christmas decorations . . . One moment of discovery stands heads above the rest. One afternoon I discovered, entombed in the bottom of my parents gun cabinet buried beneath boxes of shells, a double record album -- The Best of Judy Garland. Now, this would be somewhat akin to finding a copy of Penthouse on the Pope’s coffee table. I mean, my parents listened to nothing but Johnny Cash and the Carter Family and religiously tuned into HeeHaw and the Grand Ol’ Oprey every week. Perhaps that album was magically secreted there by some great Queer spirit who was looking out for this lost boy growing up in a mid sixties town with a dearth of Queer role models or sensibilities. Regardless, I listened to that album, and my life was changed. I could feel the warm richness of Judy’s voice reaching out to me, caressing me, comforting me, making me laugh and cry. Yes, I kept that album. Who deserved it more? My parents who left it buried in the dark, silent in the bottom of their gun cabinet, or me, who played it hour after hour, enraptured? I think the answer was clear!

I became Judy Garland. The next album to appear was the double Carnegie Hall Concert album. I knew the albums forwards and backwards. When my parents went away, I would put them on their stereo downstairs, crank it up and be Judy Garland performing at the top of my lungs, until I discovered that the neighbors could hear me. I sang those songs everywhere I went. I would go on walks around the neighborhood -- just to sing and pretend I was Judy Garland!
As I got older I realized that my being Judy Garland had to be a bit more discreet, but boy, I still loved the idea of belting one out. I owned every record I could find, bought every book that appeared. I was the only person I knew who even remotely liked Judy -- until I moved to San Francisco. Low and behold, I found other men who liked Judy as well! But my days of fantasy were it seemed over. I mean, it just wasn’t healthy to obsess so over one woman. Yes, yes, I would still listen every once in awhile, I bought the television show when it appeared on DVD, and all of her movies, but no more did I stand in the middle of the living room with my pretend microphone, the stereo blaring, and become Garland on stage before my adoring masses!

Last week I discovered, ‘digging’ through Amazon, Rufus Wainwright’s Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall. WOW
! Here is this man, living MY fantasy, live, on stage, in front of real people! Amazing. Even the li
ner note photographs are Rufus posing like the photos of Judy on the original album. How fantastic! I am not alone, not then, not now, nor will I ever be! And fantasy IS important. I was living in shame, managing my stigma by hiding it! 

Never be ashamed. Don’t let your dream be the dream that got away!


Randall said...

Nicely written.

Anonymous said...

I just bought the DVD of that concert!

Phil James.