Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 5 No. 3 | Fall 1983 (Seattle) /// Issue 5 of 24 /// Master# 53 of 73

he sun rising over the Ramona mountains was waking me when I first knew of him. At least when I was first conscious of knowing him. I was sleeping on my back on the sun porch. My mother had said it will feel like faint little scratches from inside, very low, near the pubis, and when you realize it's the baby moving, you'll realize that you've been feeling it for several days. You just didn't know what it was. I call the being I knew then a "he" because I found this out later. At the time, the issue of gender was unimportant, it was the least of considerations, the least of the experience I was having. I certainly didn't have a preference, though I think his father did. It was all too new for me. I felt so passive in that riverine light, in the enormity of the possession, the sense of being totally possessed. Maybe because I was so young, still just a girl in my parents house. Was it his legs, his arms, his fingers scratching at me from inside, so low? 4/2 months along. I lay there in the ray of sun feeling the human being inside me, kicking, hitting, grabbing, pleading, holding. The beginning. Daniel. Stereotypes Sept'1.1982 My friend Tom Jay says “It’s very Homeric down on the line. Ajax in the Iliad is very much like a lineman.” Frosty Bennet says ‘ Football is one of the things that makes this country interesting.” I think he is right, I feel this too, but it is a mystery to which I have few clues. How can / be interested in football? I leave town sadly. It is hard to go off to Utah, to leave this place, Port Townsend, Washington, where I feel at home, to leave the man I love, for the foreign culture and geography of Utah. Besides my son’s dorm number at the University of Utah where he is on a fifth year athletic scholarship, I have two addresses. One is a very old friend’s, a devout Mormon, and the other is that of a friend of Port Townsend friends, a gay man. Tony says he can get me a job as a bartender at the Sun, the famous Salt Lake City gay bar. Mormons, football players, and gays. Where am I going? What am I doing? All across the thousand miles, In fact through the whole season I will see in my mind’s eye the Port Townsend Leader newsphoto taped to Christina Pacosz’ refrigerator, a photograph of two local highschool football players. These Redskins are very mean-looking young men. Chris has written in an angry hand above the photo, “What is missing from this picture?” And answered beneath it, “First and foremost, these boys learned to kill what is soft and vulnerable and tender.” “But,” Chris continues in another colored ink, indicating that this is an ongoing breakfast conversation, “She doesn’t die easily.” And in still another ink: “Football. War. Not much difference.” Most likely this would be my position on football if I didn’t have a football player for a son, if I hadn’t raised the boy who I swear was born an athlete. The similarity between war and football is real and cannot be denied. There is a large difference too — Tom Jay says, “It’s fun to hit other people with real strict rules. Good to know where you’re at.” — and it is in this understanding, mixed with a lot of hunches and intuition, that I, a mother, who is also a feminist and a poet, attempt to hold myself. Long ago I vowed I would not do what parents universally do to their children when they reach young adulthood: get on the other side of them. I trust my son. I miss him terribly in my life. I want to see what he has done to become a man of 21. I want to see him play in his Senior year, the culminating season of his whole school career. After all, I was there at the beginning and all through the middle. I want the pleasure and joy, his story, the intellectual and creative challenge. I want to give him support and to be around when this part of his life ends, and yes, to be an influence, or at least a reminder of what might happen next. I said I would do this when he left home at seventeen. Because of the way I live I can do this: leave, go to another state. I carry three cardboard boxes with me of writing, stories, journals, poems, anecdotes, quotes I’ve collected since his birth when his extremely advanced physical capabilities made him seem like a superboy. Perhaps I’ll write a book about football. Stereotype: I raised my son in the counter-culture. His first experience with war was when he was six, his sister, Shawn was three and we were demonstrating at Century Plaza in Los Angeles against Lyndon Johnson and his ongoing war in Asia. Helicoptors swarmed above us like flies with machine guns pointed at us. The crowd rioted from the armed agitation of the police and I vowed I’d never take my children to a large public demonstration again. I felt it was important to protect their psyches, I wanted them to grow out of love, not out of fear, reaction and panic. I raised him in a world in which the values were of noh-competitiveness, nonviolence, non-materialism, anti-racism, anti-sexism, anti-military, anti-war. I raised him on the road, in free schools, without television, without spankings or even discipline as it is normally understood, on food-stamps, on subsistence earnings, on welfare. The neighbors, when we had them, on Topanga Beach, and in Plainfield, Vermont and Mendocino, California, were dopesmoking, longhaired communards and outlaws, political radicals, artists, musicians, poets, farmers, vegetarians, dropouts, nature lovers and revolutionaries — people utterly burned out on this culture’s fascism and greed, epitomized most clearly in its war on Vietnam. The man who helped to raise him, from five to fifteen, his stepfather in all but the legal sense, had served time for refusing induction into the army and for possession of marijuana. Through all this, Danny’s longing was to be straight. Like the father who had disappeared when he was so young, like his grandfather with money, his big cars, his beautiful property in Ramona. Two days after Danny graduated from Mendocino High School, probably one of the most counter-culturally influenced high schools in the country, his sister and I drove him to Salt Lake City. They took him immediately into the weight room and did some tests. They told me he was the strongest kid they’d ever taken off the streets, that is, one who had not had weight lifting training. They also said, “Dan, your biggest problem is going to be in getting your Mean together. You were raised by a hippy mom.” Stereotype: the dumb jock. He has dyslexia. Five years at the University of Utah and he still can’t read or write well. Tom Jay: “It is a very intellectual game. It appeals to the mind. Dummies don’t play it. They can’t.” That football is intellectual is something else I will learn for myself, from watching the games, attending practices daily. That my son has great intelligence has always been obvious. Even so, because of his great difficulties in school, he has been given countless I.Q. tests. He always scores in the superior level. Athletes, I have learned, are often dyslexic. Dyslexics, to put it in very general terms, are non-linear. The perception — some studies say the vision — is “three dimensional.” This is why syllables of words become switched, words are seen backwards, words from the line above are pulled down into the line being read. In fact, studies show that the mind of a dyslexic works at a greater capacity than the constrictive, restrictive linear mind, dyslexia being a greater synthesis of the right and left hemispheres of the brain: the creative, the dream, the unconscious is brought more fully into the world. And the “three dimensional,” right-brain access often makes them great athletes. Evidently it is easier to run successful plays on a football field when the mind can hold the many components of a single play, when it can see the whole field in action at one time. For three seasons Danny played tight end. As he put it in an article in the Salt Lake City Tribune in August, “I did catch two touchdown passes — against Boise State and New Mexico — and both were on busted plays. I was supposed to be blocking each time but I slipped off my man and there I was for the quarterback to spot.” It must have been the New Mexico game that an old lover of mine saw Danny play. He wrote me a postcard from Albuquerque — it was the first time I’d known in years of his whereabouts — raving about what a great tight end Danny is and hinting that he himself may have had some influence on the kid. By his fourth year, Utah had four tight ends and Danny was redshirted. (Kept on D-------- anny's longing was to be straight. Like the father who had disappeared when he was so young, like his grandfather with money, his big cars, his beautiful property. scholarship but not allowed to play — it preserved his eligibility). The coach, Wayne Howard — Danny chose Utah over all the other schools that recruited him because he loved this man — resigned last spring. A new coach, a new position: offensive tackle. Danny went from 225 to 275 in a couple of months. (He has been six foot five since he was fifteen.) The new coach, Chuck Stobart, a Methodist from Ohio, is of the “old school.” There are disturbing rumors that he is converting to Mormonism. “The missionaries are visiting us regularly," his wife will put it during the Wyoming game. At any rate, the team is required to pray together before and after each game. Midway through the season I will ask my son what he prays, and how, knowing I never taught him. "Well,” he tells me “I remember what I learned in my philosophy class in high school. We hold hands in a large circle, the lights are turned out, we bow our heads and have silent prayer. I concentrate very hard, you know, like meditation. I imagine energy hitting me from Mendocino. I see energy coming at me from Florence like a huge ball of lightning. I see it coming at me from my Dad’s in Manhattan Beach. I see it coming from Port Townsend, even though I’ve never been there. I get bombarded with light shooting at me from all the places that love me and it fills me with powerful energy. Then, last of all, I see the light coming at me from the place the team is from. Las Vegas, San Diego, Texas. “Then I’m ready. I’m stoked. Nothing can stop me. I’m ready to go out there. And play.” Cheerleader Sept. 3. 1982’ I’m at a rest stop near Twin City, Idaho. A high school football team arrives. They climb out of the bus to pee, stretch, a ten minute break from the long drive. This is Clinton St. Quarterly 5