Trapped in Pop Culture
As a gay kid in high school, when I wasn’t in the Village trying to fake my way into bars with my girlfriend, I used to hole up in my tiny room, reading Kerouac and Camus and listening to WBAI, an alternative radio station in New York. I refused to own an AM radio or watch anything on TV other than late night movies. The consequence of that and later similar behaviors was isolation. It was bad enough that I was gay in the 1960s, I hated the pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles, James Bond flics and women’s clothing. I had nothing in common with most of my peers and couldn’t sustain conversation even with queers.
I was a big bad rebel dyke who wanted nothing to do with pop culture. Well, not really. I was just a nice gay kid from Queens, but that’s what I felt like inside so I rejected much of what the dominant culture embraces.
Forty-odd years later, I wonder what happened. Actually, I know what happened. In my thirties, I tried to write dialogue and realized I hadn’t a clue how people talked or what they talked about. It was time to climb out of my isolation pod and plunge into popular culture.
From a person who had no interest in current events, other than to protest them, I became a news junkie. Between buses on my way to work, I would pick up a New York Times. I wrote short stories inspired by news articles and photos. An addiction to National Public Radio news inevitably followed. When the political attacks on gays went ballistic, I was in Oregon and thoroughly scared myself by reading the local rags. Now, with the internet, I bombard myself with breaking news alerts I have chosen to receive from a host of news emergency, traffic and weather web sites. I’ve become as vulnerable to the excitement of disaster as anyone, instead of being defiantly impervious.
In e-mail discussions with the Pianist, we complain about the discouraging political scene and how we want to ignore it. She said her partner, the Handydyke, when exposed to the news, now goes around saying, “I don’t care. I don’t care.” But all three of us do care, deeply, and follow every word.
Eventually, I discovered arts reviews and magazine journalism. How I got from there to Lady Gaga, I’m not sure, but as I approach senior citizenry, I am more in tune with pop culture than I was when I was supposed to be. Ironically, a rebel icon of yore, Bob Dylan, has become popular. My sweetheart e-mailed me a You Tube video of his appearance at the White House, where he sang about civil rights. I’m still listening, but in 2010, so are millions of others.
Twitter is one of the great temptations of my days. What did Ellen tweet? Maddow? Is there any gay news from the Courage Campaign, glbtworldnews, goodasyou, EqualityAmerica? I’m even devouring tech excitement: Gizmodo, TechCrunch, CNET and engadget. I was one of the hypnotized, watching the play-by-play up to and through the iPad unveiling. And worst of all, I can get obsessive about what’s trending this minute.
Outer space I always found a bit boring. Now that I live within sighting distance of blast offs from Cape Canaveral, I’m outside for almost every launch. My sweetheart and I were standing by the pond, where we get the best view, at 4:30 in the goddess-forsaken morning for the last shuttle launch at night. It was scratched because of bad weather, and we missed it the next morning, but the NASA web pages kept us up to date.
After the Superbowl, my sweetheart and I sat at her laptop and not only perused the infamous ads, but voted on our favorites. Mine was the Google ad. I hated seeing Betty White get tackled by a big bruiser.
Now that I can marry my sweetheart, I’ve taken to calling her my fiancé just like some mainstream het. It’s even getting common for celebrities to come out and of course I’m watching them all. My sweetheart happens to be a world authority on movies, T.V. and pop music, but that’s not the only reason I want to tie the knot. Honest, Sweetheart.
I used to be dazzled by talk of dykes I knew spending time in Palm Springs. Surely, I’d never join that crowd. Bold Strokes Books, my publisher, does a Book Festival in Palm Springs every year (March 4 to 7 this year), so there I am, in the thick of things.
Of course I don’t enjoy any of this. It’s all research for my stories. My fiction must reflect pop culture, right? I’m a big bad rebel dyke!
Email Lee Lynch at firstname.lastname@example.org.