Flavin's Corner
1-7-00

Tenderness

A tear of petrol is in your eye
The hand brake penetrates your thigh
Quick -- Let's make love
Before you die...
On warm leatherette
from "Warm Leatherette," The Normal, c.1978 by D. Miller and Mute Records.

     A little more than two hours into Y2K, leaning against a streetlamp and
waiting for a ride out of Dodge, I witnessed a couple of leather-gals risk life and
limb to cross a busy intersection.  My first thought was they were kind of cute...
This was immediately followed by the realization they were too young for me,
not the brightest chicks in the coop (as they nearly caused a major car accident),
and their mini-skirts, jackets, and boots, all of black leather, reminded me of
Nazis, bikers, and fetishists.  I was uncomfortable with this and undertook (yet
another) New Year's resolution:  I'd lighten up, try a little tenderness, and not
assume the worst in certain situations.  Yeah, I understand most resolutions
don't take...

     It seemed to take barely a second of thought...  Racing past all the reasons
the young women might wish to wear so much black leather, I slammed into an
option which held forth leather as durable and warm, black as basic (and being
somewhat good with stains), and there was no going around my mental blunder.
I had no proof they were emulating any alternative lifestyle.  Ouch!  Perhaps
they were fashion-challenged from too many Gap commercials, but their good
looks would undoubtedly get them in, through, then out of any potentially tricky
situations.  The association of black leather with Nazis, bikers, and fetishists,
while valid some of the time, shouldn't have been automatically meted out just
because of ensemble dressing.  It was wrong of me.

     Everyone hates Nazis (except, of course, other Nazis and like-minded
individuals), but growing up in the '60s, with a number of films showing a
"human" side to some Germans in Hitler's Third Reich, as well as the television
comedy, Hogan's Heroes, I became aware that the villains of prior generations
seldom retain the ongoing ability to generate fear or flight.  And why should
they?  The evil is driven out, the foe is vanquished, and all that remains is
curiosity for the historians and souvenirs for the collectors.  Yet, despite having
ruthlessly killed millions of innocent people and deserving of no more notice
than one would afford the remains of a recently slain rabid animal, for various
reasons many other than historians and collectors have continued to show an
interest in the Nazis.  I guess I'd have to include myself in that list...

     See, at some point I began to regard the Nazis as punks, a term with assorted
meanings, but most appropriate and fitting (with the notable exceptions of
"punks" as flammable tinder or "punks" as those in the UK and US who reacted,
in a rather unique way, to the disco craze of the mid-to-late '70s).  After reading
the transcripts of The Nuremberg Trials, I was (and remain) disturbed by the
perverse lusts and hoarding by senior Nazi officials.  The reports of stolen gold,
jewels, and the fine art from Paris and other cities, served to remind me of
gangsters in America in the '20s and '30s trying to "live the good life" at the
expense of others.  This was not war...  The Nazis wanted power, wealth, and
chose to commit the most horrible of crimes to achieve their goals.  And, as
these things go, most senior Nazis knew they'd be caught eventually.  Punks!

     I've never been particularly interested in the whole biker phenomenon.  Folks
apparently overlooked the premature death of T. E. Lawrence (of "Arabia")
from a motorcycle accident in 1935 and went ahead and began a sub-culture
based on two wheels, an open road, and some vague disagreement with society.
Across America motorcycle clubs were founded in the '30s and '40s, originally as
recreational gatherings, but around 1950 a switch to black leather, bad attitudes,
and violence became commonplace as the "clubs" became gangs. [Click here for
more on one such group.]  It was this biker gang-violence that Stanley Kramer's
1954 film, The Wild One, with Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, addressed.  The
fascination with gangs and leather continued with 1955's Rebel Without A
Cause, got a soundtrack with 1956's "Be-Bop-A-Lulu" by Gene Vincent, and
should have culminated (after a fashion) with 1969's Easy Rider, yet ...the biker
gangs in 2000, though still in love with their leathers, seem to be aging and
returning to "club" status with more recreational gatherings than gang-violence.
Whatever...

     Properly explaining the fetish aspect of black leather could be a rather
complicated affair (and possibly requiring research I'm not up for at this time),
but a cursory mention of significant factors is a cake-walk.  Fun-loving and
adventurous bacchants, the Christian self-flagellation tradition, black-robed
priests and black-hooded executioners, the antics of the Marquis de Sade, the
mishandling of Truman's fluoridation plans by the Eisenhower administration and
the introduction of some as yet unidentified substance into the nation's drinking
water, all contributed to the miracles of the '60s: civil rights, women's liberation,
and the sexual revolution.  I suspect that black leather got involved because it
represented many things to many people...

     Basic, personal freedoms include, among other things, a right to dress as one
pleases, engage in consensual sex with an adult, let go of inhibitions when the
mood is right, or just let go...  Casual bondage and sadomasochism is still in "the
closet," for the most part, but seems to have emerged in modern times with the
(somewhat reluctant) assistance of the gay community.  As straights (read:
heterosexuals) grew weary of the gay crowd having all the fun, more and more
"straights" are discovering their wicked, kinky selves!  There's even a movement
to get N.O.W., the National Organization for Women, to change their staid
views on a woman's right to choose S & M as a non-violent, non-degrading
form of free expression.  Well, if N.O.W. can remain quiet after Monica's cigar
trick, maybe they should rethink spanking!

     I saw the leather-gals on the other side of the street.  The bars had just closed
and, for all intents and purposes, it looked like they were waiting to hail a taxi.
My attention wavered and I looked away for an instant, only to have it snapped
back by a loud scream and the screech of hot rubber on cold pavement.  They'd
darted out into traffic and a black, Jeep-ish vehicle (S.U.V., if you must)
slammed on its brakes, skidded into the path of oncoming cars, they swerved,
and a nasty incident was avoided.  The leather-gals were still in the middle of the
street...

     The first one to successfully cross was the gal who'd screamed.  She mustn't
have seen me leaning against the streetlamp.  As her foot touched the curb, she
looked up, saw me and screamed again.  Ouch!  The second one to make it
across the street had a better disposition, and upon meeting my eyes, softly
asked, "How're you doing?"  As I answered "Fine," I was busy figuring that both
were probably just 21 years of age, barely old enough to legally drink, and as I'd
just turned 42, if I took both of them out (21+21=42) ...it would be like going
out with a woman my age.  Right...

     I've decided to add getting a grip on reality to my growing list of New Year's
resolutions.  Tenderness and optimism are nice goals to attempt, but having
someplace to share those qualities is what's important.  So, here's to surviving
Y2K, getting to 2001, Earth, reality, and achieving a few resolutions!  Evohe!

running a self-diagnostic,
Rick

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