Fine, obviously no one wants to talk about what it means to be a man and I neglected to give you my grand list of what I’m looking for in a mate** so let’s just call this morning’s post a bust.

But look at this instead:

I find it so easy, always, always, to fall in love with the utter impossible romanticism of the whole Beat experience, and found myself looking longingly at the photos of North Beach in the fifties, thinking, I was born too late.

Isn’t that nice?

And here’s where the hopscotching comes in. I read Sarcastro (in case you haven’t noticed), who reads this dude, who linked to the chick who wrote those words.

It must be like the thrill some folks get out of shopping–flipping through rack after rack of not quite right things only to finally find something that makes you gasp–the feeling I have when I’m following blog trails and stumble across something written by someone I don’t know and won’t ever know that makes me go “Ah, yes, that’s just right.”

*Yes, it is a Cortazar reference! Suck my butt, you experimental fiction haters. I’ll read what I want, or in this case, intend to someday read it and never get around to it but still reference it anyway.
**I was thinking about this at lunch and I think my requirements are–1. funny 2. smart 3. self-assured and cantankerous without being too obnoxious 4. adores me 5. makes me feel safe 6. sweet 7. calls me on my bullshit 8. loves my dog 9. loyal 10. will accompany me to boring-ass crap so that I have someone to snark with 11. tolerates my family.

When Did It Go Wrong for Men?

Before we start, can I just say how weird it is to be thinking about Carl Sandburg while walking Mrs. Wigglebottom only to come in and find that Ryan wrote about Carl Sandburg last night? Am I reading his mind? Is he reading mine? If so, poor Ryan. I give the impression that my mind is constantly racing with kinky things, but really, it’s a lot about whether the cats have food and if I remembered to turn the stove off.

Anyway, I was thinking about men this morning. Actually, I was thinking about an offhanded comment that Exador made a long time ago* about me being one of those women who can’t make up their minds about what they want in terms of men.

I don’t think this is true, only because I’ve never sat down and articulated for myself what I wanted in a man, so I’m not sure one could then fairly say I’ve changed my mind.

But I was watching some show on MTV2 this weekend about the crisis of black masculinity and how all these black entertainers grew up without positive male role models, especially fathers.

I’m not going to argue with that or dispute it; I don’t want to get off track. But it seems to me that the problem is larger than that–that it’s not clear for anyone what it means to be a man and how to transmit those values to young boys. Instead, we have, I think, what Snoop accurately observed, boys teaching boys how to be men.

When did it go wrong for men? I know some of you have your fingers hovering right above the “f” key, ready as soon as I’m done to blame the feminists for the muddle that is trying to figure out what being a man means and how to be it.

But I was thinking about the men in my family and what that must have been like for my great grandfather to be raising his family in an old house that was also a chicken coop and barn on the land of some other man.

That’s what got me thinking of Carl Sandburg–“Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs.” There was a moment when being a man meant being Midwestern, or like a Midwesterner.

And for a generation of men, sandwiched between the Wars, being Midwestern meant failing–that you would do everything you could, work from sun up to sun down, and there wouldn’t be enough money or the crops would fail or the bank would close anyway.

We’ve never had to face this head on, because the story we tell is that we “fixed” the Depression by saving the world and coming home and having a bunch of babies and throwing our energy into fighting communism.

But I think that knowledge is still there, itching at the back of our brains, that you can do everything a man is supposed to do and you can still have to pack up your 12 year old son’s meager belongings and send him out to fend for himself because you can’t feed him.

I mean, I think that implicit in the definition of “man” is a guy who provides for the people he cares about. The Depression made that impossible for a lot of American men. But the story we tell never acknowledges that. And I think that remains a large problem.

So, I guess this is a long way around to asking what do you think makes a man? And how do you learn those things? And what do you do when those things don’t work?

*I do this–you say stuff to me you don’t mean for me to take too seriously, and I do. Nashville Knucklehead said to me the other day “Why do you feel so guilty?” In context, it made sense. But something struck me about it in a larger sense, too. I don’t have an answer, but I’m chewing on it.

It’s Not a Mess, It’s the Butcher’s Studio

I got home from work and the house was just as messy as it always is, with the addition of the aforementioned mail. I asked the Butcher what he did all day and he claims he slept and worked on his art.

I think it’s been a while since I’ve told you guys about the Butcher’s art, so allow me to refresh your memories. He does a lot of work where he melts crayons onto canvases in interesting, trippy patterns. And he makes these wire figures. Lately, he’s been covering the wire figures in melted crayons.

And documenting it on film.

Some of you may recall that he took a class in how to put on your own cable-access show this summer, which I thought, might lead to something interesting.

Of course, seeing as it’s the Butcher, it has. Now, a part of our living room is designated the Butcher’s “studio.” And set up in one corner is a camera. And right next to it?

A tiny spotlight.

It is to this tiny spotlight that I’d like to turn our attention. This spotlight started out life as one of those cheesy candles over-zealous, but fire-safe Christians put in the windows at Christmas–a molded piece of plastic in the shape of a candle and its holder, with a wire running up the middle of it to provide electricity to a small 15 watt bulb.

The Butcher has made two slight modifications. There’s a toilet paper tube around the candle which, as far as I can tell, serves no purpose other than decoration. And then, there’s a more elaborate modification on top. He’s lined a toilet paper tube with aluminum foil, cut a hole in the bottom, and set the whole thing on top of the light, to focus the… Waves? Particles that somewhat act like waves? Photons? Rays? Beam? Whatever.

Which means that whenever he sits down to work on his art, there’s this elaborate ritual of adjusting the light and staring through the camera and adjusting the light again which must take place.

I’m still not sure why he has to tape his creative process, because, from the outside, it doesn’t look that exciting, and he doesn’t seem prone to forgetting how he’s done it in the past.

So, I suspect these little crayon covered creatures are the impetus. I imagine, when I’m at work, the Butcher concocts elaborate soap operas starring his wire things. And the taping of his art production is just a cover so that I’ll never bother to watch the videos to see what’s really on them.

Of course, I can’t even work the MP3 player, so, in real life, the chances of me figuring out how to look at whatever he’s taped on the camera are slim to none, which is why I have to make up stories about what he’s doing in the corner of the living room with all those crayons and the tiny spot light in the first place.