Sunday, August 16, 2009



i have all the famous deaths down.

by that i mean, i remember exactly where i was, who i was with, & who told me the news. there are the two kennedy's(john & bobby), martin luther king, presley, & lennon. hell, i can remember hearing about robert lowell(like agee, he died in the back of a cab), miles davis, & warhol. this doesn't mean i'm obsessed w/death or celebrity. it's just a trick of my memory, i suppose.

i was living w/tom etheridge in sarasota in the summer of 1977. i'd finished my first term at new college(well, actually...i hadn't finished it but it was over)& i'd gone back to p'cola & things hadn't gone well between holly & me. when i wasn't around, holly was given to fucking a wide swath through whoever & whatever circumstance she found herself in. her promiscuity wasn't the issue, that never really bothered me. the problem was she tended to not tell me about who or what she had been up to & that made for awkward situations. i didn't care for awkward situations when they weren't of my own making. i'm not sure if this was the bluegrass band situation or the frat boys out on perdido key but something had rubbed me the wrong way & i headed back down to sarasota within a couple of weeks of being back in p'cola. i had had a great time drinking sarasota dry w/tom during my first term at new college. i was ready for summer fun!

that first term at new college had been literally bone dry in terms of women. my summer continued that pattern, tho tom sure played the field. what i remember most about that summer was the stifling heat of my first south florida summer. when you'd take a shower for relief, you weren't able to really dry yourself because you started sweating profusely immediately upon exiting the shower. you did the best you could & then put on your clothes over your sticky clinging skin.

tom was renting an apartment down near downtown sarasota. it was odd shaped, w/a front living room space where the main bathroom & shower were & a long shotgun like hallway that lead to another sleeping space & the kitchen w/a toilet off to the side. i slept in the front room & tom took the other space.

that aug 16th afternoon, tom & i were sitting in the living room w/frank(my gay room mate from my first term at new college). tom & frank had drunkenly fucked the night before & there was the tension of regret & avoidance in the air. frank had hung around that next day, much to tom's chagrin. as i recall, tom was going through a love 'em & leave 'em phase. at least that seemed to be his reaction to his night of love w/frank. i was just hungover.

suddenly, on the black & white tv tom had the news broke: elvis presley had been found dead in his home. presley had never been huge on our list of music but he'd had a hit that philip & i loved just five years before("burning love")& "suspicious minds" was only eight years out of circulation. he'd spent most of the late 60s & 70s doing ballads(the awful "in the ghetto," for example). it wasn't quite like michael jackson who hadn't done anything at all in nearly 15 years before his death. elvis was still active & kind of performing. we all sat there, shocked. hearing that elvis had dropped dead wasn't the same as when we heard about hendrix or joplin or morrison. they kind of spoke our language & were near in age to us. this was kind of like hearing one of your parents had died.

"fuck," i finally said, breaking the spell, "let's go toast the king." tom jumped at the chance to get frank out of his apartment & frank jumped at the chance to relieve the tension & i jumped at the chance to get to the grog shoppe for a beer. it was after 5pm somewhere.

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