I am not descended from taste

“I’m a great believer in vulgarity – if it’s got vitality. A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste – it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”–Diana Vreeland

jack o'lanternI called Pops today. It was his birthday yesterday. I think he’s 76. Not quite sure. He’s old, but not yet really old. We talked for a little bit. He is not going to Egypt this year. I’m glad of that.

“I’m going to do something I have been planning for awhile.”

“What’s that?” I said.

“I’m going to paint the house.”

“What color?” I said. I knew what color. I just hoped he would not say what I knew he would say. Say something else, Pops! Be unpredictable! Be a normal human being, instead of a McRicketts, which is what you are. Don’t be a fucking weirdo.

“Orange!” He was so pleased with himself. So original. So unique.

So fucking awful. This is a house we are talking about, not a wagon, or a bench, or a soapbox racer.

“Ah. What color is the trim going to be?” I steeled myself. How much worse could he make it?

“Black. Like Halloween.” Or the Cincinnati Bengals. Oh, and he said this as if I were four. Of course it’s going to be orange and black! Are you an idiot, Seer? Jeez. Why are you even asking?


“I’m going to do it, no matter what anyone says.”

“I just said, ‘Okay.’ That’s all I said.”

“It makes a statement.

“I see. And what statement is that?”

“It says, ‘I own this damn house, and I can do anything I want.’ If the neighbors complain, they can buy it from me and paint it whatever they like. They can give me a million dollars for this damn house. Orange! Orange and black!”

See, Pops doesn’t have any taste. Moms has bad taste, and as the Prophet Diana Vreeland taught us, bad taste is better than no taste. Moms often makes choices when she dresses, choices about color, cut, and matching. Yes, she wears oversized t-shirts with kittens wearing hats on them, but damn it, she decided to wear that shit because she thought it was cute. Pops likes textures, and prints, and has no theory of dress. There is no rhyme or reason to what goes on his body, save the temperature outside and laws against public indecency. Pops is a Tevas with black socks man. Pops wears acrylic knit hats in many shades, often with bits of old paint on them from projects he’s done years ago. (Let’s keep it real: Pops hasn’t done shit around the house for at least fifteen years.) Pops wears shorts and shows off his ashy knees to all the passersby. He’s a magpie, picking up bits of this and that and taking them back to his nest. I am born of the two. I am a bower bird. I collect things that I like and have what some (read: my brother) would consider terrible taste, but it is fairly consistent. For me, it’s about choices. Outlandish ones. On with the show.

Oh, and the house is not worth a million dollars, so I’m not sure where his crazy ass is getting off there. I think he’s just being old. Maybe he’s bored, and he needs some drama. Because this will possibly incite the drama on the block. Ooh, look what Old Man McRicketts went and did! This is as bad as when the other people went and parked their limousine on the street! How dare they. And how dare he!

This made me look into something. When I was little, my elementary school had a Halloween parade. All the kids would wear their costumes and walk around the school grounds. Parents could come and watch. Of course, Seer was a freak and would be things like a banana slug or a banana or a cardinal or a lobster for Halloween, and my Moms would up and make me these costumes. She was awesome that way.

My legendary brother, Judge, was the sixth grade president when we (me and Sparrow, and some other people I still kinda know) were in the third grade. See, the student body president got to lead the parade. And that year, Judge was a hobo for Halloween. Yes, a bum. He wore old clothes from the Salvation Army and had a fake five o’clock shadow and stuff. It was awesome.

They had us parade to a crazy weird song for the first five years we were there, then they switched to the Main Street Electrical Parade music from Disneyland. But Sparrow and I remember that crazy music.

I am proud to say tonight I finally found what I thought was called “Happy Pumpkin,” that song that has spooked me for years. Thank you, internets! Oh, ye think me mad? Listen to it yourself and see if it doesn’t haunt your dreams. Shit is weird. Why on earth would someone choose this for a children’s parade in the 1980s? And after it was over, they’d just start it again and again and again. It’s less than three minutes long. That was someone’s whole Halloween job, just standing next to the record player by the speaker system, moving the needle back. Remember the speaker systems? With those weird, ominous white buttons near the door for contacting the office, because someone was bad or threw up? And the speakers over the clocks, in the front of the rooms? Yeah, the music used to come through those. I don’t remember speakers on the blacktop in the 1980s. I’ll ask Sparrow. I forget some things.

Punky Punkin (1950)

“Punky Punkin, the happy punkin’…and do you know why? ‘Cause he’s a jack-o’-lantern instead of being a pumpkin pie!”

Now that I watch it, the Main Street Electrical Parade would have been the kind of thing that would have been great to watch on acid. I’m a terrible person.

And it was Walt Disney’s vision for all this to happen for kids and adults alike–except for the Blacks and the Jews, of course.


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