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

the first week of school, they are on their way to their first game of the season. Malad High. I have just crossed a river named Malad. Another named Malheur. These names seem ominous to me, a serious hint of something dark. Still, there was the smell of alfalfa, the spill of little clouds onto the gold land of my rearview. Then the song as I pulled into the rest stop by the B52s. Living in your own / private Idaho / on the ground / like a wild potato. I could drive forever. But I have to stop myself, to pee, to let Moonlight out, to exercise. The boys are wearing white jerseys with large red numbers on their chests. The same colors as Utah, as Mendocino, as Vermont, as Malibu. My son’s teams have always been red and white. The coaches, four of them, are young, with big bellies, dressed in identical red sweat suits. Moonlight has already made their acquaintance, is leaning, mooneyed, against a very fat boy, number 64. I do the exercises I have done since I was twelve and first became alarmed at how large my thighs were becoming. Sweat trickles beneath my bobbing breasts. Behind me I hear loud, forced guffaws. Forced as in peer pressure. Is the team laughing at me? It is possible, in fact likely. I am, no doubt, absurd looking. But I keep the ball in the air, I keep bending to the hot blowing wind, to a purple multi-blossomed bush of the desert so near my face, down and around a mosquito who keeps taking aim at my pink flesh but missing, as I tack and plea, bounce and bob, do my own private cheer to the lone gull from home standing on one foot facing me on the visitor’s gravel: Give me an Ml Give me an A! Give me an L-A-D! whatdaya have, lads?MALAD! And let me tell ya, Mom. That’s BAD! I hear the boys behind me boarding the bus, leaving. The B52s Idaho-Potato punk song wafting back from the Interstate. used to soy to him, "Donny, if the American flag means anything, it means I have the right not to stand for it." Back in the van I study the map for Malad. An old Oldsmobile convertible painted dull silver pulls up behind me. The couple in front looks hot, exhausted. There are three little boys in the back seat. Even the one year old has a butch haircut. The man turns and wacks the oldest upside the head. As the screaming goes on I remember Danny at three, just before I left his father. George had snuck him to the barbershop and had his thick blond curls shaved off. When I went in to check him that night after he’d gone to sleep, the bristly stickers left on his head made me nauseous. It was the first time I didn’t want to kiss him. But, of course, I did. Looking For A Football Team September 4 Mid Saturday afternoon ■ The girl behind the football dorm desk says the whole team went to the Hilton last night, that she thinks there’s a reception there for them this afternoon. So I drive back down into the city, wondering if it’s okay if I show up. I wouldn’t want to make him nervous before the first game. Running around the Hilton. How funny the place seems to me. So preposterous somehow, so plastic and artificial. “I’m looking for a football team!” Finally the cute car attendent tells me they were checked in for the night. “But I think they’re gone now. We were given orders to tell no one, to let no one in. They brought them here to keep them away from all outside influences, girlfriends, wives, media.” This seems much more logical to me than what the girl at Austin Hall said. But what an expense ... to bring the whole team down ten blocks to the Hilton Hotel just to keep them away from loved ones. And how old fashioned. I decide since I’m here to check out The Room At The Top. In the elevator, I go the twelve flights with a huge fat drunk silver-haired rich-looking sixty year old stereotypic businessman with a Southern drawl, laughing too loud, too excited — that horny-man-laugh so devoid of emotion — and a very young, beautiful Oriental prostitute. Gametime — Utah vs. Montana Early evening The crowd is shocking. Suddenly, twenty eight thousand people. I’ve been alone on the road for so long. The sense of absurdity as I find my seat, right in the center of everything — Danny has left me a ticket at will call — of having left my whole life, of having driven a thousand miles to get to this football game. The women around me all look like prostitutes, like the woman in the elevator: the false eyelashes, the black eyeliner, the breasts up to the chin, the gaudy colors, the high fashion, the perfumes (oh, the smells!), the high heels, clickety-click- click up and down the cement stadium steps. Then I remember that this is how women in Utah look. They dress up like whores, their men like tricks and pimps, ,: to go to Church. For the first time it occurs to me that the woman in the elevatof',m a ^ not have been a prostitute, that riis'-andW her behavior was in fact typical Otah^ couple behavior. I feel totally out of place, totally conspicuous. The faded rags I’m wearing. Already something in me wants to sell out, blend in, get my hair cut like their’s, use a little eyeliner, no, a lot of eyeliner. I tell myself I’m just spaced from the long drive, the dislocation, the outrageously beautiful sun setting right in my eyes, the loss of self in the 28,000, who suddenly rise en masse singing The Star Spangled Banner. The Star Spangled Banner! Shit! I forgot all about this. It’s been five years since I last had to refuse to stand for the flag, probably the Sports Award Banquet when the Mendocino American Legion bestowed upon Danny the Athlete Scholar Award. Or was it his graduation? Breaking out in a sweat, I stand my ground, that is, I keep sitting, a dwarfed mouse in the fashionably risen bodies all gloriously belting out the patriotic song. I grow certain that a few people behind me, particularly one man at my right shoulder, is singing louder and louder, directly into my ear, for my unbelievable gall, my insult. I feel sorry, fragile, vulnerable, teary. I remember what I used to say to Danny — the poor kid, years of football and basketball games in our small towns and his mom always refused to stand for the flag — I used to say to him, “Danny, if the American flag means anything, it means I have the right not to stand for it.” It’s one of the few things he never complained of me about. He was there when I took the vow, in Arlington Cemetery during the Vietnam War when so many boys, my brothers, Vietnamese and Americans, were killing and being killed in its name. And there they are! A hundred red and white football players charging the field! Danny! Bounding out, I spot him instantly, he’s 64, breaking from the mass. I’d recognize him anywhere, just as if I’d fixed him dinner tonight, as if it hasn’t been nine months since Christmas when I saw him last, as if he wasn’t one of a hundred identical costumed and hooded figures way down there and I just one of 28,000. Oh, he’s so beautiful! Such great spirit he has! Swinging those thick arms out in front of him. Running. Warming up. Hugging 65. Kick-off! The announcer bellows: “Monroe catches the ball at the four, cuts to the left side-line, dodges the final Bobcat midfield and races into the end zone. ” Touchdown! The first play of the first game! 96 yards! No one can quite believe it. Then 28,000 people go crazy. The team goes crazy. Laughter flying with the perfume and aftershave. Number 65 jumps into Danny’s arms, his huge feet kicking in the air, like a bride. Danny carrying 65 around the field just like he’s a bride! The crowd out of its mind. I suddenly recall what my fellow poet, and a former high school football player, Tom Jay told me. “There was this other middle guard in the league, a Mexican guy, who was as well known as I was. We were written up a lot in the L. A. Times, the Valley papers. We weighed the same, our statistics were similar, we were middle guards. ^ipaHy,the galrie came. We were so finbii&rh1^^ struggle, .<but;heitner^f^^ At / J ,har<11yMkno11 but this is tne> emotionalism, in kind and degree, so poignant and large that I will witness nearly daily for the next five months. There will be times when I will be embarrassed by the display of so much raw emotion. The frequent tears, the frequent open articulation of love and concern from one young man to another, and to others, male and female, not on the team, is hardly the stereotype of the musclebound, out-of-touch-with-the- emotions-He-man football player. Now I’m back into the game, Danny’s all I care about. For watching him, I miss major plays. Everyone yelling. Don’t know what’s going on. He’s on the offensive line. Don’t really know what that means. Can’t tell if he’s doing good. I’ll learn. Ha! I’m going to learn football! The deep orange glow of the desert mountains. The Oquirrh’s. So many people. A stadium full of hookers. So many of them pregnant. I remember the night before Danny was born, I went to my brother’s football game in Ramona. I was too huge to describe. Somebody gasped, “What are you doing here?” I had by that time just given up on his ever coming. I’d accepted that I was going to walk around with a giant football for a belly for the rest of my life. After the game, some friends came home with us. I went into the bedroom, the guys started playing poker, my water broke, George and I swam down that mountain to the hospital, my water flooding the back seat of the car. Ramona High won the game that night. I think my brother Clarke was a quarterback. Or was it a fullback? I have to learn these things. Half time. 10-6. Danny running off the field. Turning around, running back to 73. They run off together, talking. 73: So that’s Gino. His roommate. Gene Knic- krem. Offensive Tackle. I thought Danny said he was a guard. Third quarter. My old problem: I’m too much the visual. I get caught in people’s auras, get stuck, can’t get out, get back to myself. Two rows in front of me is an amazing looking couple, again, in their mode of behavior with each other, the prostitute-pimp construct. She is very beautiful, with long silky white-yellow hair, painted nails, black lashes at half-mast. He’s 60 at least, maybe 70. He’s dressed more silky than she. She’s in the act of seducing him the whole game. He watches the game (like a man), she watches him (like a woman). I watch the game, my son bent to the line, from behind her red gleaming pouty mouth, her flaring nostrils, her black lashed stare at him. She’s young. He’s rich. He’s pretending to be bored, she’s about to come. I’ve never seen men and women act this way to each other except in the movies. What on earth do they want from each other? Suddenly Montana is leading 12-10! The scoreboard, a marvel of electronic wizardry, declares "The Bobcats could upset the heavily favored Utes if they don’t get it together. " Fourth quarter. 16-12, Utes. Fourth down goal for Montana. They don’t make it. A blue and gold player slamming his head into the turf. How I can’t help but hurt for him. Hot beginning, hot ending, final score: 30-12. Utah Utah Utah! Coaches Show September 5 “C’mon Mom. Every Sunday at three is Coaches Show.” His grin is so large. “Yeah,” one off the guys says. “Dan’s the star. They usually ask him to be on it.” “Ah, shut up!” Danny says, hitting him. The announcer is saying to coach Stobart, “I’ve never heard of a situation like this. First play of the season, a touchdown.” I try to concentrate but don’t do well. I just want to look at all of them. Danny and I can’t quit grinning at each other. D — anny sits in the passenger seat Gino on my bed. What a sight! Two ot the largest men in the world, they look like a different species. After the show I can tell him all about my trip and what happened yesterday, how I tried to go to the Sun on Friday night when I pulled into town. “You mean the gay bar?” I explain that and about the Hilton. He’s laughing at me. He seems so mature, so high and happy somehow. He seems almost proud of me. Here’s the mother I’ve been trying to tell everyone about and you haven’t believed me. Now you’ll see. For last Christmas I gave him and his sister large photo albums of their lives, from pregnancy to the present. Danny kept saying, “send me some pictures, Mom, so I can show Sandra my background. Her father flew jets over Vietnam. I tell her I was raised a hippy, how anti-Vietnam you were. She doesn’t believe me. Send pictures!” “That was an awesome photo album you gave Dan for Christmas,” Gino says when we meet, a voice so low you want to stoop down and scoop it up for him. I react to awesome in the way I’d use the word, awesome is in fact exactly what I meant it to be, but then I remember this is a favorite word of my teenage punk nieces in Oregon. Awesome. It means something a little like groovy. I keep asking questions about what they did at the Hilton. I keep thinking about that prostitute, if in fact she was one. “We saw Patton." “Patton, the movie? “Yeah, Stobart said Patton will make us want to win no matter what.” I begin to go off on one of my rambles. “Do you remember Nancy Patton? She was Patton’s niece.” Nancy places high on Danny’s list of Mom’s Craziest Friends. “The black guys call you Mendocino Mama. They want to know if you have any mindbenders with you.” Practice September 13 Clapping! All of them! Yelling! 6 Clinton St. Quarterly