Thursday, October 23, 2008

Connects with my ancestors

Charles Warren Stoddard writes of his first three years living in San Francisco in his memoir In The Footprints of the Padres. Stoddard's narrative begins in Rochester, New York in 1855 when he is twelve. He leaves with his mother and older brother to travel via the transisthmian route to meet his father who has been living in San Francisco for two years. Speaking of his trip along the San Juan River across Nicaragua, Stoddard writes:

. . . a canoe shot out of the shadow and approached us . . . Within it sat two Indians, . . . with picturesque nudeness that served only to set off the ornaments with which they had adorned themselves . . . They drew near us for a moment, only to greet us and turn away; and very soon, with splash of dipping paddles, they vanished in the dark.
These were the flowers of the forest. All the winding way from the sea the river walls had been decked with floral splendor. Gigantic blossoms that might shame a rainbow starred the green spaces of the wood; but of all we had seen or heard or felt or dreamed of, none has left an impression so vivid, so inspiring, so instinct with the beauty and the poetry and the music of the tropics, as those twilight mysteries that smiled upon us for a moment and vanished, even as the great fire-flies that paled like golden rockets in the dark.

Native nakedness left an impression on the young Charles, an impression which was to influence and entice him for the rest of his life.

Friday, October 3, 2008

What I Learn in School

1919 - 1920 investigation of same-sex sexuality at the Newport Rhode Island Naval Training Station. Concerned about "immorality" within the ranks, the Navy employed decoys to seek out, have sex with, and testify against men who self-identified as "queers." The following is from the official trial transcripts, an examination of a decoy by the defense:

Q. You volunteered for this work?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You knew what kind of work it was before you volunteered, didn't you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. You knew it involved sucking and that sort of thing, didn't you?
A. I knew that we had to deal with that, yes, sir.
Q. You knew it included sodomy and that sort of thing, didn't you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you were quite willing to get into that sort of work?
A. I was willing to do it, yes, sir.
Q. And so willing that you volunteered for it, is that right?
A. Yes, sir, I volunteered for it, yes, sir.

from Rupp, Leslie. A Desired Past. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1999.