March 4th, 2005

Our Saucy Ship's A Beauty

Dream. I’m back in the military. A shipmate’s cell phone suddenly plays a recording of a phone message he recently sent to a woman. He says he will come to her house on the weekend when he’s off duty, and they will have sex again. I am angry that the sailor—who is married—is openly cheating on his wife. I make a big scene. This is conduct unbecoming the uniform, I say, and I expect the Captain to take some action. He and the others say nothing, they look the other way. I understand that they consider my outburst inappropriate. In other words, boys will be boys. And—most important since we’re in the Navy—you don’t rock the boat.

The scene shifts from the military. There’s a gorgeous woman in the background who is watching me, and I get the strong sense she finds me attractive and wants to go to bed with me. I’m suddenly aware of myself : I’m slim, not bad looking. I’m wearing a pink shirt, open at the front, and a white jacket and white trousers, an outfit usually worn by Don Johnson, an actor in the TV series Miami Vice. Nearby is another good-looking guy who looks like the reality show contestants I photographed a week or two ago at the CBS early show. He looks self-assured and casual. He grins, thrusts his hands into his trouser pockets, and nonchalantly struts about. I do the same, and am happy to be seen by that woman (and some other women, too) as a desirable, manly figure.

Analysis: The Navy man who cheats on his wife is a representation of Chief Don Smith, who I encountered when I served in a Combat Camera unit in the US Navy Reserve. In a film production meeting in a motel room Chief Smith bragged to his friend, a Warrant Officer, about the girl he had on the side. “Marcia ain’t too bright,” he said, “but she sure as hell knows how to give a great blow job.” He added that he wasn’t worried about his wife finding out because she was stupid and had no place else to go.

The others, including the Warrant Officer, appeared to admire him. I didn’t say anything, but felt deep contempt for Chief Smith’s disloyalty to his wife. He was an authority figure—he outranked me by one grade—but I saw him as a fraud. He was, in fact, disgracing the uniform.

Further illegitimacy of his authority came after that episode, when our unit was moved to another location on Naval Air Station Willow Grove. I spent a couple hours energetically carrying boxes and file cabinet drawers to the trucks, while my shipmates dragged their feet and avoided as much effort as they could. I wanted to give them an example of a sailor who was not afraid of hard work and was thus “attentive to his duty,” as they sing in Gilbert & Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore.

As soon as I sat down, Chief Smith appeared. “What the fuck are you doing slacking off?” he shouted. “Get your lazy ass back to work!” I started to tell him that I HAD been working, and his buddies hadn’t, but he cut me off. “Don’t back talk me, sailor. Don’t you EVER back talk me.”

I was very nearly paralyzed with loathing. Chief Smith’s behavior reminded me of my father, who cheated on my mother the day I was born, and he continued to drink and cheat until she could take no more and left. By some horrid trick of fate I found myself once again under the control of a man like that, and it made me sick.

Shortly after that episode I filled out the paperwork for a discharge, which I could get at any time, since I had by then fully met my service obligation.

My dream is an elaboration of my unwillingness to submit to illegitimate authority. Deep down I know that if I ever do, I will experience a “death” of identity. But at the same time rejecting authority makes me feel guilty because in a sense it’s a betrayal of my father. But in the end I have no choice. His actions demonstrate he deserves betrayal. And of course I must make my own decisions.

The dream also relates to that lengthy and fascinating interview I had the other day with Andrew Harvey. He suggested, in a kind and compassionate way, that I may be projecting upon Vittoria my anima, which means I have not yet come to fully accept my feminine aspect.

But then the clothing I wear in the dream contradicts his suggestion. Pink and white are essentially girlish colors. And a man who is truly comfortable in his masculinity doesn’t hesitate to wear them. In the dream I enjoy emulating Don Johnson’s insouciance. I, too, strut about like a cock of the walk.

My, don’t I look just splendid in my pink shirt and white suit?

Yes. Of course I do!

Marianne Greenwood

In one of the guest rooms my dear hostess and her assistant J. were saying goodbye to Swedish ethnographic photographer and world traveler Marianne Greenwood, who was departing for the airport. Her bags were already in the lobby, and, after a flurry of thank yous and kisses and hugs, Greenwood disappeared into the elevator.

Back in her office my dear hostess asked me to get all the mounted photos Greenwood had left in the other room for her. So I fetched them--a couple dozen 16 x 20 and 11 x 16 color prints mounted on surprisingly light foam core boards. Each bore a handwritten title and Greenwood’s signature in blue felt-tipped pen. They were an eclectic collection of images of the Amazon jungle, blow gun hunters on the various islands of Oceania, monasteries and monks in Tibet, Southwest US Native Americans, and various other exotic scenes.

My dear hostess inspected each one. At her direction J. and I put them either into the yes or the no pile. At the end, there was only one in yes, and the rest in no. “I can’t collect much now,” she said.

J., she said, must take two of the big ones for herself, and of course J. excitedly went through them. “No, you must take three,” she said. So J. picked another one. Then, she turned to me and said, “Now, darling, it’s your turn.”
“Thank you, but I don’t think it would be a good idea,” I said, “because they’ll likely get damaged on my trip back to Italy.”
“If you take a couple of the smaller ones, darling, they won’t.”

So I rapidly flipped through the feather light boards. I liked a portrait of a bare breasted young native girl on one of the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea. The other I selected was of a dark-skinned girl washing clothes in Vanuatu, formerly New Hebrides.

“Well,” I said, “I’m getting out of here before this wonderful woman changes her mind.”
J. smiled. “She’s so generous, isn’t she?”
I bent over, put my arm around my dear hostess’ shoulders, kissed her forehead, and caressed her back. “Indeed she is.”