Oct/Nov 2016 Miscellaneous

Third Party

by Christy A. Hallberg

Image courtesy of the British Library Online Photo Collection

I. "What have I got to hide?"

May 1967, Village Theater, Cosmic Love Convention: Louis Abolafia for President.

It was a Happening—a 72-Hour Freakathon for Hippies and Saints.

I was seventeen.

I was a strobe light and guitar licks and drumbeats and syllables before they became words, meaning before it became mean. Down on me, oh, down on me... Janis, with her boas and her cackle and her fire. Her voice was there, crackling like static from the walls, the ceiling, the air vents.

Louis Abolafia, naked as a lovebird, shouted from the stage: "What have I got to hide?"

"Nothing!" we screamed.

"We should be a country of giving and giving and giving," he said. "The way we're going now, we're all wrong. We could be giants. We should be ten times above what the Renaissance was."

Fuckin' A. The Renaissance. Shakespeare—the grooviest bard. To be or not to be... We could be... We should be...

I would be a member of the Louis Love Administration. He would defeat Nixon and paint the White House purple and abolish the War Department, and Timothy Leary would lead us in prayer on inauguration day: Our heavenly freaks, we are gathered here today to turn on, tune in, and drop out.

I'd done all three. I'd left Texas, like Janis before she became Pearl. I'd heard of Louis, before he ran for president. He operated a runaway center in his storefront studio in the East Village. I ran there, because someone back home took another little piece of my heart, ba-by.

"Make love, not war!" Louis shouted from the stage.

I did. In the naked dark on a naked floor, grit and grime grinding my backside. Down on me, oh, down on me...

My daughter Pearl was born nine months later.

Richard Nixon became the 37th President of the United States of America on November 5, 1968.

Janis took her last shot on October 4, 1970.

Louis OD'd on October 30, 1995.


II. "Lick Bush in '92!"

July 16, 1992, Madison Square Garden, Democratic National Convention: Joan Jett Blakk for President.

Joan—our Joanie: Queer Nation Party drag queen African American presidential candidate. We followed her from Chicago, Pearl and I. We waded through the crowd of delegates and reporters, Pearl dressed like Janis, her namesake, her alter ego. "Drinks are on Pearl," she'd say, whenever, wherever, with her boas and her cackle and her fire. She said it to the squat reporter with a cleft chin and the ten-inch microphone he shoved in her face.

"The military's gotta go," Joan said to the same reporter. "We don't need them anymore. The Cold War's over. What are they gonna fight about? Nothing. You know what I mean? Fight about new dresses."

"Tell us about your platform," he said.

She swept her arm with her hard muscles and her thick skin down her red, white, and blue dress and her strands of fake pearls, toward the gritty, grimy floor and the high heels Pearl helped her pick out. "There they are," she said. "These are my platforms. I walk on them every day. I'd like to see Bill Clinton wear these shoes."

Pearl threw her head back and cackled.

The crowd cheered Ethel Kennedy, sitting in the balcony with her Bobby Kennedy-lookalike children. I'd seen her before—with her husband in a motorcade in San Francisco, May 1968. Firecrackers exploded in an alley. Ethel dove to the floor of the car. Bobby stood on the rear hood of a convertible and kept talking. I parsed his sentences, climbed up his words and swam inside the letters—g and o are the snuggest. The motorcade proceeded to Fisherman's Warf while I was floating inside uppercase O. I was still there a few days later, when he exhaled for the last time on the kitchen floor of the Ambassador Hotel.

I ran to Chicago after that. Chicago has a g and an o.

I was forty-two.

Bill Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States of America on November 3, 1992.

Joan Jett Blakk ran for mayor of San Francisco in 1999.

Willie Brown became mayor of San Francisco in 1999.


III. "Deez Nuts are exactly what America deserves."

Summer 2015, Pearl's house in Iowa, Interview with Rolling Stone: Deez Nuts for President.

I wasn't there. Pearl told me about the interview. She wasn't there, either. She's a night nurse at the free clinic now. But her daughter was there—Janis, 15, sophomore in high school, Pearl's child via surrogate, now Pearl and Nina's child via marriage. Janis told Pearl. Pearl told me. The interview was with Janis' friend Brady Olson, aka Deez Nuts: 2016 Independent candidate for President of the United States of America.

RS: "What do you think qualifies you to be president?"

DN: "The fact that if I can fill out a form so vague that it doesn't include your age, or the fact that all get accepted even if they're only partially filled. Anyone can run."

I'm sixty-five.

I paint portraits—not of Pearl. I write poems—not about Pearl. They're good, I'm told—the portraits and poems. I'm writing this story right now. It's partly about Pearl.

I have a lover, but I'm not in love. Down on me, oh, down on me... Janis likes to sing that song—our 15-year-old Janis. She's a renaissance girl, with her boas and her cackle and her fire. "Fuckin' A," she says, whenever, wherever. She can't vote yet. Neither can Deez Nuts. But he can run. What's he got to hide?

Janis says she'll be a member of his Nuts Administration. He'll lick Clinton and trump Trump and paint the White House black, like Obama should have, and abolish dumb shit, and Jay-Z will lead us in prayer on inauguration day: Our heavenly muthafuckers, we are gathered here today to make lemonade outta lemons 'cause all these bitches need squeezin'.

RS: "How far are you willing to take this practical joke?"

DN: "As far as America wants to take it."

I throw my head back and cackle. Fuckin' A.


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