A Professional Bull Riders Competition in Reading Pennsylvania,
a Bent Review by The Queer Critic-Yippie yi yo kayah!
I bring to you a “crit” unusual from most that I have done before,
in that I had to cross the line; cross the aisle; cross the gulf , if you will, of my own preconceived notions, and for an
evening at least try and participate and assimilate in an objective, un-opinionated way, the methods in which my host, The
United States Army, might, I feared, present and perhaps slant to some degree, the presentation to its guests of a fast growing
national sport that I do enjoy for reasons I will elaborate on as I go. Given my past and current politics and my personal
displeasure with the current state of domestic and foreign affairs, I presumed the army’s presentation would be, if not completely
opposite to, at least in a large degree, alien to this artist’s “bent” point of view. To quote the original “Queer Critic”,
Quentin Crisp, commenting upon daily passing a New York bar spewing Hell’s Angels and other such rough-trade, biker types
out onto a Big Apple sidewalk: “They've never murdered me. When I take my laundry to the laundry on First Avenue, I pass between
their house and their row of Harleys. I pass with bowed head to show I accept their supremacy, and they've never murdered
me.” I came with very much the same forebodings as Quentin, here, and as I am still here writing to you, and so you see, the
United States Army did not murder me. I feared for the worse given their recent reputation, but I had laundry of sorts to
do, and I was bent on seeing and enjoying this competition in a season of competitions presented by a host of different sponsors.
I was brave and found my way into the Sovereign Arena in Reading, Pennsylvania [That’s in the US of A] to watch the latest
event in a season of these events that lead up to a world championship week in Las Vegas, Nevada later this year involving
a cool 3.2 million dollars in prize money.
My excitement for once overcame my fears and I faced these fears, braved the
unusual landscape, and the unfamiliar kind of crowd to go and gawk and be bedazzled by the marvelous talents and expertise
of that icon of my country, that historic and contemporary hero unique to it, that “man of all men”, the beloved American
Although there are cowboys from Mexico, Brazil, and other lesser places, none of these in my opinion are the original,
and although talented as they may be, and cute as any can see, they do not have for me, coming as they do from foreign places,
the mystic of the American cowboy. No, I will not give up this territory claimed in the American Old West, and I am happy
to say still alive and thumping and judging from the money in hand growing and prospering to boot, the pun intended.
let’s get one thing straight at the “get go”. Cowboys and I suppose, if you are perverted unlike me, cowgirls too, are sexy!
I’m talking hot, hot, hot! Please someone douse me with cold water or better yet take me into their showers! But, let’s not
dwell upon the obvious, and let me instead tell you of all the lesser distractions, not so tall and big perhaps, but things
of which you may not already know.
As if the United States Army, and the cowboys, were not American enough, we had also
that favorite American obsession and pastime working overtime this night, pushing all else aside, [never mind the talent or
the art], that is to say everyone was making and spending money. Not since Rome, has there been to such a degree, such a people
so loose and free with economy! You see, besides sex, we have a common denominator. These spurs are made of gold, honey, and
the cowboy hat is trimmed in real fur, not fake, like any found at the Five and Dime-that’s Walmart, today.
makes the world go round. I’d be lying to you if I said it does not make these tits twirl! And twirl we did, both on and off
these expensive bulls. First of all everything and I do mean everything, including the rodeo clown’s bum had an advertising
logo on it. Just look at the pics. We’re talking advertising and advertising everywhere, both visual and verbal. Now if you
think I mean this as a criticism, I do not! It all, like in the movie, Talladega Nights came together in a beautiful cocktail
of colors, shapes, and text, just beautiful to behold, especially on a cowboy’s chaps and other areas unmentionable. This
is the American way. We led this way and still do lead despite rumors from Beijing to the contrary. Andy Warhol, where are
you when we need you? Sex sells. Cowboys sell. The army sells. I sell. Everybody sells. It generates capital. It provides
jobs. It is capitalism. Don’t look now, but it won! We were even shooting beer, or maybe it was cans of pop, out of bazooka
guns into the crowd. Oh! It was fun! And the gun carried a message, not of war so much, as “buy me”. Here’s the first one
free! There were hawkers in the stands and on the address system, too. There was the big screen, visible to all, telling you
of the many opportunities to buy this or that. It was snap, crackle, and pop even before anyone got atop a bull!
me tell you of the bulls for they were making money too. You see, it’s all about staying on the bull for just eight seconds.
That’s all. Just eight seconds, Partner, and you’ve won, if not very much, at least the applause of the crowd, some points,
and the ire of the bull’s owner. Those bulls that can not be rode are, for eight seconds, famous. Those bulls who like gladiators,
are for awhile unconquered, unseating all the cowboys who dare, are treated very well and their owners do not complain. The
scoring of each eight second ride is done in equal measure; a score for the rider and a score for the bull. The Superstar
bulls, for however long they’re famous, earn big bucks for Daddy, and they are not worked hard. They are rode, so I am told,
for approximately twenty four seconds a season. I kid you not! They make thousands of dollars by the second. That’s better
than any call girl or call boy in the world, unless I’ve missed something or someone quite special. We won’t mention the stud
fees to come later. I don’t want you too excited.
It goes without saying that the cowboys are not poor. The one final prize
at the end of the season is a cool one million dollars, and that’s on top of all the rest and the perks to boot. It is not
just the football players, the hockey players, and the other jocks we reward all too well. Mind you they all deserve it for
all the other money they churn not to mention the very dangerous jobs they do. Oh, it’s unfair, but didn’t I tell you. This
is America. Like Ancient Rome we are not in financial matters anything to do about fair! Are you so naive? We after all pay
a fair minimum wage, do we not?
I counted the coral if that is what the main platform and the stanchions are called, where
cowboys and sacred beasts await their turn in the main arena. I counted in human numbers perhaps seventy five men and a few
women. This is upfront, anyway, a male thing. Do not fear, though. The money surely trickles down. I’m sure; for one thing,
more than a bull earned some fee for being ridden later that night in Reading, Pennsylvania. I only know it was not me. Sorry.
That was crude and a little rude. I am about entertainment and fun. The point is that outside this “coral” are thousands and
thousands of other jobs for both men and women. There is the city. There are the sponsors. There is the technology and the
media. There are the parking lots, the hotel rooms, and the security. It all adds up, you see. It is about money, lots and
lots and lots of money. The big camera boom alone, I so admired, must have cost the mint. When leaving the center, I saw a
vehicle parked outside that had what must have been a hundred little TV screens glowing in the night. I think you see where
I shine my light.
But when it is all said and done, it was more than the mundane American process of making money. True
to all art, it was more about the contest, eight seconds long, between man and beast, a contest waged since the dawn of time.
It is as exciting now as it was in cavemen times, and it still puts food upon the table. I can not begin to tell you how much
I admired this dance. It was an art form as beautiful as any ballet, and I take my hat off to the cowboy and this noble beast.
I am an artist in every way. I loved it all, and I can assure you it was not wanting in creativity. Most everything that man
strives to do with grace and perfection is art or didn’t you know? -at least when it is pursued with passion sometimes to
an extent it becomes compulsive. How many people world wide are glued to the telly in some obsessive, seasonal, ritual, following
something involving what they call sport and I bestow an adjective on; “art”.
I’d like to invite you to at least see one
of these cowboy things, if nothing else, just for the fun of it. The United States Army was a good host and the thing was
only political in that it welcomed some of our soldiers back from a tour from you know where. In the end, no matter on which
side of the aisle we are, that is what we all want; to see them safely home and far from harm’s way. There was no political
posturing either, as the rules and history of the Professional Bull Rider’s Association do not allow it. The crowd too was
not anything I expected. I felt perfectly at home. I am after all in my own country, peacefully about my own pursuits, perhaps
not high in a tower, but in a civic and civilian place.
And too, if you go to one of these cowboy events, whether it is
a bull rider competition or the more traditional rodeo, if you’re “bent” like me, you’ll surely see, some eye candy, and you
will have participated in a historic rite. Have any of you been to a bull fight? It is more to do with ancient ritual than
the killing of any bull. Some would say it is religious. But I am very “bent”, you see. Some things have a history and are
best left alone. It is perhaps pompous of me, and I’m sure many disagree, but I suggest that for one generation to, too quickly,
trump so many generations before, is this not unwise? It seems to be not our history and not the American way. The constitution,
indeed the Supreme Court may be flawed; it is not for me to say, alone. I’d merely take my time if I had my way, and not be
too hasty to change anything that has worked so well for so long.
But excuse me. I am “bent” to some degree, and if you
saw Brokeback Mountain, you’ll know, that I am a very particular kind of cowboy. In the end, under the starry skies above,
I will forever long to be just one thing. I will forever long to be free. Sing, yippie yi yo kayah!
© 2006 by E.D. Ridgell
*The above was a review I wrote in 2006
in the "voice" of Quentin Crisp,"The Queer Critic" who used to write reviews in New York, City. I acted as a while as "The
Queer Crit" for "Walt's World", in honor of Walt Whitman a bascically Gay 'zine at Journalspace.com
The Countess Comes to Dine
In the fall of seventy five we had the Countess of … to dine. The entire house was in turmoil
in preparation: a House of Queens awaiting the visitation of a real Countess…Charles had met her in that invariable
way he had of meeting the widest possible diversity of people while on a visit to Paris only the year before. And here she
was, in Baltimore, God only knows what for, and to dine with us!
We were an unusual communal gathering under one roof; a three stories
high, red brick, row house with the required three white marble steps in front. Larry, its protector was one of Baltimore’s
more stately Queens and our benevolent patron. We were the latest of his collection of trophies come together to amuse him
for little rent, and to lend support to one another in a then less amenable world for those of our persuasion. Now, don’t
get me wrong. Larry was no Madame though I do suppose that house could talk. It still stands and I hope it keeps its secrets.
Countess, was so far as I remember a descendant of the last Bourbon now the proprietress of a small hostel in Paris- ah, that
must be where Charles met her! She was a survivor in every way. Her husband, the Count, sadly had been imprisoned, tortured,
and shot by the Nazis during the occupation of Paris. She had known suffering. She had known hunger. All this Charles had
let us know.
Larry was to cook that evening. Of course, he was the best of cooks this being one of those prerequisites to being
not just any Queen but “A Queen”. We were still mere princesses. Charles was to die two years later visiting his
recently released con. He had looked forward to this for years penning love letters and receiving something like them in return,
communications with designs. He died on my twenty eighth birthday. I took the call. Larry was there, brandy in hand. I learned,
then, that booze really does work on shock. Larry would have Brandy.
I married shortly later, a suitable man, a man
with taste and an income, and left the house. The menagerie would go on for a little while longer with new Men In Waiting
being properly schooled in those days when those things were valued.
The menu was sensibly simple, taken for granted
to be nothing but the best, cooked to perfection, and, of course it was. The booze was expensive and diverse as there were
several courses and Waterford to show reflecting sterling.
Larry met the Countess of … on the steps as was right. All went well. It was all so grand. The
Countess was all we could have hoped for, full of little nuances to be noted, lessons old, nothing new, in those days when
those things were valued.
of Paris, of her family, of the war when she had been so young. She touched on her loss and related her story with just the
proper editing to be interesting and not intrusive. She was a Countess.
Charles played on the harpsichord he had built
from a kit. He played so well. Everyone in our circle played well, except me. I painted. To this day I still hate the sound
of an organ. It seemed every Queen and his mother in Baltimore played the organ? Well, it is really a Southern city and a
religious city and in those days the guitar was still a rude thing unless it was Spanish.
I was as I recall still beautiful and always charming. I was raised
in a Southern family and meeting the needs of little old ladies, blue bloods or not, was something I did not have to feign.
I must have been very boring to her. She was very kind to me. I will always remember the touch of her hand as she said goodbye,
a polite shake that conveyed acceptance of all that had been, and all that was, and all that would be as things she accepted
and was perfectly accepting of and comfortable with. As I say, she was a Countess, who came to dine in those days when those
things were valued.
2010 by E.D. Ridgell
Abraham Lincoln and the Issue of Gay Marriage [ Written Prior To The Election of President
Obama in response to "smoke screens" put up by the opposition to distract the populace from the real issues]
I do not usually like to speak in any way other than poetry. I never feel as up to the task as others, am uncomfortable
in front of big audiences, and I prefer my voice seen and not heard, and so I am content usually to express myself through
my art. I can not in good conscience, refrain from commenting upon something that I have foreseen coming, and that I now see
surfacing in more and more debates and legislative movements throughout the Republic today.
I sometimes wonder if these
last years will not go down in history as the worse and most calamitous of all the administrations since the founding of that
Republic. Probably not, but neither will it be remembered anywhere near the best.
A President in our history that is
remembered as one of the Republic’s best is Abraham Lincoln. One of the many wise and shrewd things about this lawyer,
statesman, and great American is that he knew how NOT to “take the bait”. He rarely raged or harangued against
his adversaries. He had a way of making his point with a simple witticism or often self effacing little story that was far
more damaging than a public tirade given in anger. He knew not to defend himself. To take a defense is to loose the offense.
Neither was he easily goaded and distracted from the principle point of a case. He would not let the debate be dictated by
his opponents. Indeed, we have letters written by Lincoln berating the many poor generals he had before he finally found Ulysses
.S. Grant. You did not want to get one of these letters of reproach from Mr. Lincoln. Oh, no! President Lincoln as evidenced
by his Gettysburg address was no “mean” writer. But this wise President after writing these letters never sent
them. He simply slipped them into his desk drawer. The letters had served their purpose and “centered” the President.
He could now more coolly deal with his anger in a less costly manner to himself. He simply dismissed the disappointing generals
which was his right and duty. He might be criticized but he could not be accused of anything hot headed or impulsive. He made
no “Pickett’s charge”. Abraham had a way of touching the conscience of the people and letting them find
their own way round to a point of view. He coached their reason and not their ire. He had many adversaries and enemies but
they were not products of an impulsive and uncontrolled temper. He was not one to pull rabbits out of hats by sleight of hand.
Lincoln so far as I know suggested no amendments to the constitution over issues not particularly of threat to anyone least
of all the general populace involved in a divisive war.
Many politicians with their hidden agendas will all too soon
begin to use issues and buzz words and phrases in the upcoming months in an attempt to “trigger” the opposition
to “rise to the bait” and rant and rave in debating issues that are directly opposite to the ones that might challenge
their hidden agendas. They will seek to put up smoke screens and distract the electorate. They will pull the inevitable rabbits
out of hats. Watch the other hand as they do.
I would warn you to not be distracted or goaded by these peripheral debates.
The issue of gay marriage for example, although an important one, is not really an issue of great magnitude unless you allow
it to become one. It is a perfect sleight of hand, however. It will sort itself out if for no other reason than it is reasonably
right that love between any two people regardless of sex is a marriage no matter the current law. This issue of gay marriage
will be resolved by the majority of Americans who are remarkably adaptable to change and adept at passing states laws in their
own good time and way. Let us hope they do the right and ethical thing in the end. As for my part, I believe that they will.
It may take time. I do not think I will see it in my lifetime, but in the end right usually prevails. Then again, we are learning
that if we live long enough we do witness things happen that we never thought to see. Give’Em hope! You Gotta Give 'Em
Hope! Besides, the legal protections of joint ownership of property, private wills, common insurance policies, and even domestic
partnerships in heath care issues, are already granted and the “current loud and distracting hysteria” seem to
center upon diatribes between disputants with religious or money agendas. This is perfectly acceptable in a democracy and
good so long as it does not crowd out and weigh down larger agendas. My point is that I will not be distracted from talking
about and seeking to debate the really important issues in these time. They are far too many to touch on here but they are
The coming Presidential election, in my opinion is pivotal to the future of our personal liberties
and the welfare of our poorest and most disenfranchised citizens. Institutions and so called entitlement programs like Welfare,
Medicare, Social Security, and traditional retirement programs are being belittled by one element of the ”haves”
to the detriment of the “have-nots” and they are ever so slowly being eroded. It is no crime to be rich, especially
in this country where opportunities prevail like no where else in the world. But, the word “liberal” is made to
be a dirty word. Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor, a class of very well to do liberal and rich Americans, who felt
a deep obligation to serve and give back to the less well off citizenry are belittled and held in distain as those “liberals”
responsible for these socialistic silly institutions. The robber barons of our generation who do not feel a similar responsibility
for the welfare of the less fortunate would have you believe these so labeled “entitlements” are outdated programs
that interfere with our defense budget and newer institutions like the Department of Homeland Security. Socialism-like innovation,
the reinvention of the labor movement, and the technological social networking that is breaking down walls of censorship and
transparency will all blossom into something uniquely Democratic in the very near future. Change is already at hand.
for myself, I wear the word “liberal” with pride. If you would know “how to talk to a liberal”, my
answer is “with a great deal of respect”. The graves of Americans who died for our right to unionize and strike
demanding a share in the wealth of our productivity are scattered throughout the country by the thousands and go unattended
and forgotten. The CEOs of large companies are made to be godlike heroes, the stars of television “reality” shows
that hold no reality for me. Unions are made to sound un-American and socialistic. It is being subtlety suggested that we
need only rely on our own initiatives and that to expect “services” or “public assistances” from our
local, state, and federal governments is a sign of weakness and badges of a society that deems itself entitled to hand outs
rather than to make their own way. Furthermore, we would not want this disease to spread to the globally unfolding system
being put in place whereby the sweat factories of the world provide us with cheap shoes and “knock off” handbags.
The irony is that they are right. Speaking for myself, I DO expect my tax monies to be used for the benefit of all and I
do expect monies taken from my labor to come back to me when times are rough as they inevitably are if you live in a world
other than that of “reality TV”. I trust no individual company or private savings scheme based on economic markets
to come to my assistance when the floods of ill fortune all too inherent in life break their levies and consume me. I expect
and I demand something of my government in these times. I do feel entitled to it! I expect the highest institutions of government
to act as checks and balances to greed and corruption and to balance the monies I and my fellow citizens have rendered unto
them. I weary of “rabbits from hats” and sleights of hand that pull pork bellies from hats and through expensive
missiles at nats while putting in place costly bureaucratic programs that feign false security and do dishonor to the history
of a country that has always welcomed immigrants who would be free and would stay to prosper and join with it. Who are your
ancestors my friends? Do you honor their memory now with barbed wire, guard dogs, and green cards of no value or effect?
In short, I put it to you; there are important fish to fry in these debates to come. The issues, too many to entirely list
here make the issue of gay marriage as a minnow to a whale; the war which is too reminiscent of a recent one for me to speak
of with temperance, an immigration policy that will in effect loose us our world leadership in all aspects of economy and
intellectual property, and the national deficit that will bankrupt our children are far bigger fish. “They”, the
leaders who have brought us to this precipice will attempt to have you nibble on smaller fry. Do not be distracted. When they
mention the threat of gay marriages to the moral fiber to the nation, smile and bring the subject around to the fact that
one in three Americans, gay or straight, do not have health care. When they suggest that marriage is set in cement as a heterosexual
institution between female and male smile and don’t be drawn in. Not now. Bring it around to the important issue that
large American companies are deliberately, yes, deliberately going bankrupt. They would deny thousands of Americans their
hard earned pensions and health care benefits by dumping those obligations onto an “entitlement” program under
funded because of a wasteful war, and then turn around and reorganize as a newly named company no different from the original.
The rich board members and former administrators are now usually left richer and the employees and common stock holders now
much worse off and in many cases destitute. These destitute often choose to not marry or even divorce so as to gain scraps
thrown down from the tables of entitlement programs that I fear will be later dismantled or made too weak to be of any benefit
anyway. A tax system that in itself would make a spicy “reality TV” show, were it not desirable to keep it in
the hat is another issue that we might better debate if it were not kept so conveniently confusing for the sakes of the wealthy
and the fortune 500 companies. And when they say that gay marriage is against the will of their god, remind them that their
god has no voice in the affairs of this Republic one of the few democracies that would protect the religious and personal
beliefs of all by separating the laws and government of the state from the religious proclivities and inevitable prejudices
of its citizens.
Remember the wisdom of Lincoln and emulate his tactics. Win with a modest and self effacing reason for
the benefit of all, knowing that you are grounded in principles and traditions rooted in over two hundred years of the history
of a great people made up almost entirely of immigrants who will not be undone in the end by this short lapse into economic
greed, class division, religious intrusion, and a destructive foreign policy. It has brought us near to bankruptcy much of
it because on one sad September day some terrorists got lucky and were made even luckier when turned into a world wide self
fulfilling prophecy for the benefit of power hungry brokers and war mongers who are of far greater danger than some fundamentalist
murderers who would pretend to speak for a religion they do not understand or honor. What better argument for separating religion
from politics? The marriage and union of any two people who profess to love one another regardless of their sexual gender
seems of such an unthreatening and simple enough debate that I would entertain it after matters centering upon the survival
of a system that would permit such debate are resolved, once and for all. Keep your humor and remember martyrs like Harvey
Milk who would begin every one of his speeches with: “Hello, my name is Harvey Milk and I’m here to recruit you!”
Keep there memories alive. Sean Penn just won an academy award for doing so. I in my humble but never silenced way will endeavor
to do so, also, in the optimistic hope that we can, "yes we can".
© 2008 E.D. Ridgell