[fawny.org: Le «blog personnel» de Joe Clark]

2003.06.22

How’d you like to get this in your inbox?

your mother died at 0700 this morning

I received that June 17. I didn’t even know that my family, or at least my sister-in-law, was online. I suppose it only stands to reason.

The family is much more estranged even than is typical for Anglo-French Maritimer families riven by generations of alcoholism, mental illness, poverty, and physical and emotional abuse. I hadn’t had any contact with my mother in many years. She had no forwarding addresses or phone numbers for me, but I am readily located online, and New Brunswick has all sorts of free Internet access points her resident children could use.

My next-elder brother has been in Ottawa, apparently, for twenty or more years, and told me on the phone very long ago that he decided to have no contact whatsoever with his family, which, unbeknownst to him, also included the one member he might actually have gotten along with – me. My sister is in Surrey, B.C., apparently, but she hasn’t been heard from. I overreacted in a bridge-burning letter over a decade ago and frankly miss her. I have a brother in Halifax, I think, plus the two brothers and sister-in-law in Moncton. I have aunts and uncles in Montreal and Massachusetts (actually, evidently the latter is no longer true). Somewhere lost in the world is a nephew, a fully-grown man now, to whom I would love to be an uncle.

It’s one of my brothers who mailed me. In one sentence. Essentially sucker-punching me right in the kisser. “You moved away. I got stuck with her.” True on both counts, and am I ever OK with that. My brother found my E-mail address – the least likely of all the published addresses – within hours after my mother’s death. I could easily have been contacted about any ongoing illness.

I gather everyone wanted it that way. There’s a lot of spite in my family. He did, after all, say “your mother.” I wonder who his was. And you would not believe a subsequent message I received from him.

Over the years I have had to stew, I realized that I was taking a risk in not keeping up with my mother. Because for a long time I didn’t know if she were alive or dead. I did not know how I would take the news if I found out she were dead, or, worse, if she had died long before. Pace Camille Paglia, it is through cinema that we learn models of living: On This Life, Anna’s mother dies unexpectedly, and she blows off flying to the funeral for the most flippant and trivial reasons. Much later, she breaks down in Miles’s arms, crying “I want my mum!”

I thought I wouldn’t do that, exactly, but the scene implied a breakdown I could expect.

My concern all along was my unhappy teenage years. As soon as puberty hit (early, as is common), I was very much aware that I was queer. I didn’t consider it a problem. New Brunswick was the problem. I knew I was trapped in a backwater, despite Moncton’s stature as the second-largest city in the province. The city is now so large that, just last week, possibly by coincidence, I checked the Web site of Moncton Pride. Their leather competitions are in no significant way different from the Eagle’s, let alone worse. Last week a queer couple – from, in fact, Moncton – got married in Toronto and immediately demanded that the government allow them to adopt a common surname. New Brunswick is part of the 21st century.

But this was the 1970s through 1983. There was no way to be a gay kid then. In that era, American Christian fundamentalist nutbars actually tried to claim there was no such thing as homosexuality, merely lapsed or polluted heterosexualists. I distinctly remember the first talk-show episodes featuring actual gays. My mom asked me what I thought of one of them. Quite obviously, through her thicket of denial, she knew all along.

I was the smartest kid in the school from the poorest family in the school, gay, growing up really fast, hirsute, and interested in subjects that are still obscure twenty full years later. Mom never understood or supported my interests, and destroyed my files once I left for university. She destroyed my history.

Through my teenage years, I was so unhappy and depressed that we argued every single day. Wasn’t it her responsibility as a parent not to argue with her children?

Yes.

Could she possibly have known that?

Here is the answer, arrived at after years of understanding. She was an uneducated divorcée and victim of years of spousal abuse, working service jobs then going on welfare and a pension, living in New Brunswick in the 1970s. She had no adequate psychiatry; the infamous Dr. Kritikos from Greece was a qualified psychiatrist the way Laurence Olivier in Marathon Man was a qualified dentist. All told, no, she could not have known that.

Over the years I have had to stew, I concluded that there was really no other way I could have grown up. I regret it nonetheless. It damaged me and hurts me to this very day.

I am not the last of my family line: I have a nephew. But I’m not going to reproduce. Even if it were practicable, I would refuse: I may be smart, but my hereditary package deal is one I would not wish on anyone. I’m concerned, now more than previously, about my lack of a history. I know one or two things about my mother’s mother, and that is absolutely it. To my knowledge, my grandparents were dead the entire time I was growing up, and were rarely discussed. I am in near-total ignorance of my father despite having known him slightly growing up. (A massive and abusive drunk. How many of those traits did I get? None. I am my mother’s child. He died when I was 16, I believe. While I know I thought about it for a while, I was, if anything, glad to be rid of him. So was everyone. He brought lives into the world, but then again so did my mother, but what he brought none of was joy or happiness.)

I worry about my ancestors. We were white trash, but we existed, and eventually, by accident, design, or misadventure, they made me. I take Clive Barker’s lesson seriously: I may not have children, but I am still obliged to give back to the world, which I not merely try to do through my artworks but which I am actually doing. My journalism is all well and good, but now, as a published author, I am part of history.

I was my mother’s child, but now I have no choice but to be myself. And they are left with themselves. I know who’s winning in that deal.


Updates will resume in July.

2003.06.15

I don’t really know, actually; I looked away at the wrong moment.

To respond to the request of Seamus McStubbins (Tipsy McStagger, shurely?!) to expand on my Aikmanism passim: Circa 1995, whilst freelancing for the Voice in sports (also technology), I learned the Buffalo Bills and the Dallas Cowboys would be playing an exhibition match at the Dome. Instantly I thought: Time to disprove the bullshit about queers in dressing rooms. Namely:

  1. We must never be told that gays are on the team because then we’d know they’re looking at us in the shower. By this reasoning, the closet is better, and all the straight guys on the team never look, either.
  2. We can’t let women into dressing rooms because, quite obviously, they too will look at naked guys.
  3. The only actors in this dispute are athletes and reporters. No one else in a dressing room is relevant.

And here is the reality:

  1. Gay and bisexual players are present on certain teams. Yes, they’re looking, but it’s not as if everyone else is not doing the same thing, and after over a decade of reading every published recollection by gay elite and professional athletes, to my knowledge not one of them ever recalled popping an erection in the shower.
  2. Secrecy is worse than openness. Pretending that everybody in every dressing room everywhere is straight tells a lie.
  3. There are many more hangers-on in dressing rooms than merely athletes and reporters. To name a few: Trainers, medical staff, coaches, front-office personnel, camera and sound crews (who are not actually reporters), fans, managers and agents, and celebrities and VIPs.

The assumption, here and forevermore, is that an out gay person will destroy the social order of the athletic dressing room. Yet even buried therein lies an assumption: This guy (inevitably a guy) is gonna mince on in and scream to everybody “I’m here to publicly declare my homosexuality!” (In fact, this is the same trap half the articles on gays in sports have fallen into over the last decade – assuming the only way to be out in sports is to go through a 1980s-style public coming-out process. Everyone seems to expect gay athletes to hold a press conference and read from a prepared statement, or, worse, wing it, as Magic Johnson did when he outed himself as having “attained” HIV.)

I decided to go from point A to point B without bothering with points C through Z. It was in no way difficult to secure press credentials for the game – I was a Toronto freelancer for an American publication who would cover two American teams playing in Toronto.

Naturally, I needed a shooter. I got my friend Arne Gutmann in on the same pass. (He’s now out in Whistler having a grand old time as a snowboard instructor. Heterosexualist, but like the kids these days, cool with the gay shit. Was constantly getting propositioned by a certain 6′4″ Maltese in town.)

Up we went to the press box. During the halftime show – really, why else was I there? – a black guy in a cyborg getup that gave him multiple mechanical bodies and replicated arms trailing behind him like segments of a centipede performed a rousing lip-sync rendition of “YMCA.” “That is so gay,” I told the press box, meaning it literally. An Asian-American journo, clearly interpreting it in the high-school sense, nodded at me.

At last the tedious and unintelligible football game was over and it was time to put the theory to the test. I, fully-decloseted sports reporter, would walk into the joint, cover whatever I felt like covering, and leave.

The mission was a qualified failure.

  1. You saw Any Given Sunday? The nervousness, self-consciousness, and butterfingers of the female sports reporters depicted in that film are all horribly real. Without exception, the women working that game were petite, well-dressed, high-class girly types, not the tough-as-nails professional sportswritrixen I have known. One lass stood with her cameraman – now, that would have been an interesting conversation on the drive back to the studio – pretending to study her notes for long minutes before entering the place.
  2. American black guys are different from Canadian black guys, and American-black-guy football players are subset even of those. It was shockingly easy to joke around with these 250-pound homunculi. Actually, it would kind of fun to cover the team full-time and travel on the plane with them.
  3. The floor really is covered with discarded tape. The dressing room resembles an ordinary gym locker room with a few exceptions, mostly the size of the inhabitants, the noise, and the lack of doors. (It really is a dressing room. There are no lockers.) To anyone who works out, it is an unremarkable environment.
  4. The white guys were uptight.

And that includes Troy Aikman.

The blond giant of a man, who isn’t all that handsome but is a beautiful specimen when viewed as a whole, is of course homosexualist. Gay he isn’t. Gay requires self-awareness and a cultural belonging. Troy was obviously miserable and lonely, and the longer he stayed in football, the worse his life got, with cumulative brain injuries and a hastily-arranged end-stage marriage.

I learned about chutzpah that day. I doubted my mission for a moment. My mission was simply to observe. Troy stood alone at his station, quite apart from everyone else. He seemed to be undressing, and he noticed me. I walked around for a moment, came back, and found Troy accompanied by a weasely type in his ’50s wearing a business suit. His handler, as I believe they say nowadays.

Where did he come from? And when?

He was there to protect the merchandise, including defenses against other queers. Of course they could tell. I saw it in their faces. Apparently this scenario replicated itself rather often; it had to, otherwise why set up the system?

That all came to me in a flash. I got flummoxed for a moment, looked down, and when I looked up again Troy was just pulling on his underwear (snap went the waistband) and giving me a deadly serious look.

I engaged the worst possible plan of action: I asked for an autograph. Risible. Senseless. Self-incriminating. I can’t understand it, either, even today.

I figure I know now what getting drugged with rohypnol feels like, because I spent the rest of the night that way. So help me, Troy Aikman had beamed telepathy at me. He had blasted me with telepathy.

Arne and I went out for a bite to eat. While he rescued a praying mantis that had flown into the restaurant (Arne Gutmann: Kind to all creatures), I struggled and struggled to process what had just gone on. Think Keanu Reeves in Johnny Mnemonic gagging far too many gigabytes of instantaneously-downloaded data.

Much later, days and days later, I didn’t feel foggy anymore and could think calmly enough to decode Troy’s message: Don’t make a scene.

Doesn’t sound like much in words. Trust me, it hit like a ton of bricks in person.

Where, though, is the evidence?

As we keep trying to explain to straight people (that is, straight guys), we do not need people to tell us they’re gay for us to know. Gaydar is real. It transmits through a football uniform seen in a long shot on a television program, and I am here to tell you right now that it transmits when a blond giant is pulling on his underwear and staring right at you with murderous severity.

You could tell just by looking at Troy, but, in addition to that, there were too many hints dropped in too many articles about the blond mammoth. He evaded too many questions, did too many things gay men (actually gay men) do, and made too many elliptical declarations.

Back in 1995, using my sponsored CompuServe account, I perused some article databases. I read essentially every personality profile of Troy Aikman, which were not numerous, because the personality available to profile was a cipher for reasons many of us understood. The evidence gleaned from these articles is circumstantial, but that’s what we’ve got to work with. That’s more than we need to work with. Straight people (again, straight guys) never seem willing to accept evidence other than a signed-in-triplicate declaration or getting caught having sex with a guy – and even in that case, nothing less than the U.S. military still lets you get away with it if you play the “I was just experimenting” card.

I’m prepared to live with the idea that some of my readers consider the following excerpted evidence speculative. You won’t believe it. But, to paraphrase Morpheus, I do not need you to: I stood right in front of him and, with my own two eyes, stared into his.

  1. SPORT: How do you balance the needs of the team against your personal feelings for certain teammates?

    AIKMAN: I don’t get it to where it’s a conflict with my interests.... Take Mark Stepnoski: He’s a friend of mine, a great player, and he can help us win. Selfishly, I want him in Dallas. But if he can make more money and be more content someplace else, then I want him to leave. I have always put the player in front of the team in that respect.

    SPORT: You missed playing time last season because of a concussion and a sprained knee. Does the compilation of those injuries concern you as far as how much longer you will be able to play football?

    AIKMAN: It’s a concern. I really don’t know how long I’m going to play. There are times I come out here and work out and think I want to play football for another 10 years. And there are times when I feel like it could end tomorrow.... I think when that decision has to be made, it will be very difficult to walk off the field. But I’ve never wanted to be the guy who gets up in the morning and whines to people all day long about how his back is killing him, how the knees hurt and how football is an awfully tough thing to play.

    At the same time, it is a physical game and there are a lot of things that go with that. I’m 28, single and I hope to be married and have lots of children someday. If I thought those things were going to be jeopardized, I think I would say it’s not worth it to me. I think I’ve always been able to keep football in perspective. I know there are things more important than football, and once those things are compromised, then I think it’s time to walk. I think I’ve given more thought lately to how long I’m going to play.

  2. But the parties remained stuck on the issues of guaranteed, bonus and early-year salaries, a situation that didn’t change until the evening of December 22, when Aikman dropped his demand for a guaranteed contract. Steinberg, boots still on, finally called his client just after 4 a.m. Dallas time on December 23. “We’ve got a deal,” he told the sleepy Aikman, who was talking to gilrfriend/country singer Lorrie Morgan on the other line. Aikman was so tired that when he woke up a few hours later, he wasn’t sure if Steinberg’s call was a dream. So he waited a while and contracted his attorney.

  3. Aikman maintains a distance from much of the team, other than his handful of close friends, mostly offensive linemen. He’s private by nature, not at all the type who talks just to talk, and he also just isn’t around much. He spends hours every week during the season in meetings with the offensive staff, preparing the game plan for the weekend ahead.

  4. The way Troy Aikman sees it, the only problem with fame is that everybody knows you, sort of how the only downside to unemployment is that it doesn’t pay well. As a boy, he dreamed it would be this way, the fans at his feet, the world at his doorstep.

    Aikman, a country music nut who hangs with the linemen and, all things considered, would rather be in Nashville, prefers to speak of the big picture, the one he fears could slip from view as his public profile expands. “In the big picture,” Aikman will tell you, “football’s nothing.”

    Aikman’s agent, quarterback monopolist Leigh Steinberg, boasted right after the Super Bowl that his client’s movie-star name and features made him “a marketing dream” and would quickly hike Aikman’s off-the-field income into seven figures. But Steinberg recognizes that Aikman doesn’t have the nature – or the stomach – to cozy up to the advertising world.

    “The night before the game, I talked to a friend of mine. I talked to her till like midnight, and she said, ‘Well, you better get some sleep for the game tomorrow,’ and I said, ‘I probably won’t be able to sleep anyway, so I’m not worried about it.’ We ended up talking till like 1:00 in the morning, just to have somebody to talk to. Then when I got off the phone, I went to sleep, and I slept for nine hours. I’ve never slept better in my life. The whole thing surrounding it was very strange because I was very at ease and calm through it all.”

    He says he always expected to get to this level, having prepared for it since he was 9 years old, practicing his signature in anticipation that one day he would be asked for it. A native Southern Californian, Aikman’s formative years were spent in Henryetta, Okla., where his father, a pipeline construction worker and rancher, moved the family when Troy was 12. Kenneth Aikman is the toughest man his son has ever seen, and the connection between the quarterback who stands tall and hard in the pocket and the man who raised him isn’t missed.

    “Part of the reason I play the way that I play,” says Aikman, “and don’t fear getting hit – people say I take unnecessary hits – I think that stems from back when I was younger and seeing how hard he worked and how tough he was and wanting to prove to him that I was tough too. I think that deep down, I always wanted to prove that I was as tough as he was and that I could take anything that he had to give. And I think that through football I was able to prove that to him.”

  5. The final gun sounded after Super Bowl XXVII, and Troy Aikman’s life changed forever. As he raced off the Rose Bowl field on a jet stream of emotion, he looked into a TV camera and began screaming at the top of his lungs, over and over, “I’m going to Disneyland!” and then, “I’m going to Disney World!” Having just learned that he had been named the game’s Most Valuable Player for his near-perfect quarterbacking in the Dallas Cowboys’ 52–17 victory over the Buffalo Bills, Aikman was going places, all right. He just didn’t realize yet how many places – and how quickly. When you’re 26, you’re a bachelor with movie-star good looks and a name straight out of Hollywood, and you’re the Super Bowl MVP, well, your world is going to start spinning.

    First Aikman spoke to hundreds of reporters at a postgame press conference, and then he was off to shower and dress for several TV interviews on the Rose Bowl field. And as he scurried back from the shower toward his locker wrapped in a towel, Aikman had no clue that he was already the object of a heated tug-of-war among the three network morning shows.

    At 3:30 p.m. he dashed off in a stretch limousine to the NBC studios in Burbank, where he was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. As Aikman nibbled on cake in the green room, members of Leno’s staff trickled in one by one, asking him to autograph footballs, caps, posters and programs. Finally Aikman pretended to be heading off to makeup – “I need a touch up,” he said, rolling his eyes – but retreated instead to his dressing room. Even there, though, he couldn’t find peace and quiet, because in the next dressing room political commentator John McLaughlin was madly rehearsing his lines. Leno stopped by to introduce himself, and Aikman told him, “I just want to be natural. I just want to be myself.”

    Aikman held his own on the show with his tales of zealous fans, though he left the jokes to Leno (“Fifty-two to 17? Fifty-two to 17? I mean, is that a football score or is Woody Allen dating again?”). After the show, as Aikman left his dressing room carrying an enormous cellophane-wrapped fruit basket, he was blinded by the glare of a spotlight from a TV camera and engulfed by autograph hounds. Always the gentleman, he graciously obliged both interviewers and fans. Then he stepped out into the cool Southern California evening, climbed into a limo and sped away.

    “I’ve guarded my private life ever since I got to Dallas. I’ve been real aware of the public. If I were a nine-to-five working individual, I’d get tired of seeing me on TV all the time. Hey, I’m no different from them. I turn a lot of things down. I hope to be in Dallas for a long time, and I don’t want to wear out my welcome.”

    “As a kid I used to practice my signature, working on the way I wanted to sign my autograph,” he says. “I’d say to myself, ‘One day I’ll be somebody. They’ll want my autograph. They’ll want me to do Gatorade commercials.’ And now a side of me finds the idea of doing commercials very interesting. But there’s a contradiction because I enjoy my free time. I have tremendous loyalty to my friends, and I enjoy being around them. It’s who you get to share life with, not the actual experiences, that makes living so worthwhile.

    He did, however, absorb the down-to-earth values of small-town America. “I’ve never tried to be anything I’m not,” Aikman says. “I understand my place in the world and where football fits. Everybody searches for inner peace. Some are able to have it, some aren’t. People criticize me for not being emotional, for not smiling enough. If someone sees me smiling, I’m happy. If not, I don’t feel like it. Like smiling for pictures with fans – I can’t turn it on and off. I’m very content with who I am and what I am. I’m not trying to be something people want me to be.”

  6. During the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl season, square-jawed quarterback Troy Aikman also faced a pass rush off the field – from female fans more excited by his baby blues than his throwing arm. Everywhere he went, women mobbed the unattached 26-year-old; they swarmed around him in stores and restaurants, and at games they waved signs reading MARRY ME, TROY! Says CBS sports reporter Lesley Visser: “Hollywood could have created him. A blond, blue-eyed cowboy with perfect teeth and a hot hand, Troy looks exactly like the hero he’s become.”

    This is one blitz that has thrown the famously unflappable Aikman for a loss. “Oh, shoot, now,” he demurs in endearingly aw-shucks fashion, like the “real dorky kid” he was growing up in small-town Henryetta, Okla. Aikman says his 6 ft.4 in. physique developed during his playing days at UCLA. His head never did swell, though, not even in 1989 when the Cowboys signed him to a six-year, $11 million deal. He lives in a Western-decorated spread in Dallas and is not one to squire the model of the moment. Aikman says his dream gal is “wholesome, honest and cares for other people” and is not “completely into her looks.”

    As for his own grooming habits, “about the only thing I do is make sure I bathe!” Aikman jokes. But he may have the best beauty tip of all. “You know,” he confides, “no one was calling me back in 1989 when the Cowboys were 1 and 15.”

  7. Troy Aikman, Dallas Cowboy quarterback, on his reaction to being named one of People’s 50 Most Beautiful People: “I thought, ‘Well, they don’t know that many people.’ ”

  8. Women appear on his doorstep, uninvited, and are furious when he turns them away. They send him suggestive photographs and letters. At car shows, they slip into the ladies’ room, remove their panties, and then stop and ask him to sign them. Sometimes, a woman just pulls up her shirt and asks him to sign her torso. Once, a woman dropped her napkin at his feet. Gallantly, he handed it to her. She leaned over and ran her tongue across his cheek.

    “That was unbelievable,” Troy remembers. He was stunned, not only because the woman offended his sense of dignity but his sense of hers, too. He doesn’t like aggressive women or women who pursue him because he’s famous. (When the press printed the latter fact, women started beginning their letters with, “I’m not writing to you because you’re famous.”) But he is famous, one of the most famous athletes in the world. He’s recognized in Germany and Jamaica and lots of other places that are not exactly hotbeds of his sport.

    “He reminds me of a rock star,” says one old friend. Adds another, “Going out with Troy these days is like going out with Elvis.” But Troy Aikman, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback, isn’t Elvis. He’s just a big, muscular, boyishly handsome, country-boy football player (6’4” 220 pounds, with strawberry-blond hair and a cowlick, and freckled skin that reddens in the sun) who left the tiny Oklahoma ranching town of Henryetta and went on to become the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII, and who is arguably the best quarterback in the NFL today....

    In Dallas, Aikman has a reputation for leading a low-key life. He avoids his fans by eating pizza in his house five times a week. Sometimes he has friends over for a barbecue. Mostly, they are teammates or old friends from college-people he can trust and feel comfortable with. “It takes a while for someone to gain my trust,” he says. “Loyalty and trust are important to me.” Some of his friends are just ordinary people, like “the gal who managed my first apartment and a buddy who works for the electric company. I don’t have to prove anything with them. They don’t judge me. If I didn’t play football, we’d still be close.”

    Aikman complains that he often goes months without a date. He finally hired a woman to cook his meals because he has no steady girlfriend. Even after the Super Bowl, while his teammates were celebrating with their wives and girlfriends, he was alone in his room until he finally thought of a girl to call. This may be because he has an old-fashioned, almost chivalric attitude toward women. It has to do with his upbringing. He claims that his mother “is the most important person in my life” and that his two older sisters helped shape his attitude toward women. “They helped me understand their emotional swings, their bad-hair days,” he says. “I learned they’re just different.” Which may be why, in high school, he was not embarrassed to take a typing course with 38 girls.

    About the only complaint heard in Dallas about Aikman is that he often appears aloof, humorless or even arrogant in public. He claims that’s merely a defense mechanism against people he doesn’t know. “I’m quiet in public, but I’m not shy,” he explains. “Shy people have a problem expressing themselves. They’re afraid to. I’m not.” [...]

    Aikman says the whole experience was surreal. He was alone in a city he never much liked and too frightened to leave his room. “I felt trapped,” he recalls. “I like to control my life. Control and order are important to me. I wish there were a switch I could flip where no one knows me, and when I want-to be noticed I could turn it on.”

    But there is no switch. After the Super Bowl, people’s perception of Aikman would take precedence over who he actually was. He had begun to learn this earlier, when he appeared on an Oprah Winfrey Show about celebrity dating. Her producers told him to wear jeans and cowboy boots, his usual attire. When he arrived, he was embarrassed to see all the other men in suits and ties. He felt like a “fool, a hick. I’m tired of having to dress like that just to confirm someone’s opinion of me.” But he does tend to dress in jeans and cowboy boots, dip tobacco, drive a pickup truck and listen to country-and-western. So now he makes a point, when being interviewed, of not wearing jeans and boots and of arriving in his sleek white BMW, not his truck, so people won’t think he’s “a hick who rides my horse everywhere.” He adds: “New Yorkers would say I was a country guy, but someone from Montana would think I was pure city.” After all, Aikman was born in Cerritos, California, home of metalheads and surf dudes. He moved to Henryetta when he was 12.

    “Getting old scares me,” he says, giggling. “I remember when my father turned 40, he wouldn’t open his gifts for two weeks. He took it hard. I thought it was foolish. I told him he should feel fortunate to live to be as old as he was.” Aikman does not see the awkwardness of what he is saying. His young fife has been so filled with the sorts of success that most people only dream of that he can’t imagine his later life equaling it.

    “Look,” he says, “when you’re a kid you look forward to getting older. When you’re 16 you get a car. At 18 you’re an adult. At 21 you’re a full-blown adult. But after that, what? I mean, what’s left? Twenty-five was perfect for me. But 35? I hope I’m still playing. I have this fear – what will I get into after football?”

    His biggest fear, he says, is death. “When I was nine, I used to have nightmares about death. I was in a major state of depression. I’d walk around thinking, One day I’m going to die! Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a religious person and I think this next life will be wonderful, but still – it bothers me.”

    This may explain why, even today, he sleeps with a Bible beside his bed and why, in college, he joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes until their “hypocritical attitude turned me off.” (In high school, he became an avid churchgoer, even though his parents weren’t.)

    “In my senior year of high school I got rebaptized,” he says. “It was a total immersion, in a dunking tank.” He blushes with embarrassment. But he is not embarrassed by the dichotomy of his Christian faith and his fear of death. When it is pointed out that a man with faith shouldn’t fear death, he seems confused, as if his faith were merely a goodluck charm to ward off death. It is a child’s view of faith. In many ways, Troy Aikman is childlike. Even his fears are those of a child who wants to ward off the woes of adulthood.

    “I had become a country boy,” he says. “In big cities like L.A. and Dallas, I missed the slow pace, the open spaces. If I had stayed in Henryetta, I might have lived the rest of my life there.” Fame hasn’t altered his perspective. “I still understand myself in terms of the big picture,” he says. “Football isn’t everything. I know that. And I’m very content with who I am.”


As promised, the red-haired Eric Meyer provides photographs of the tactile signage at the South Court Auditorium of the New York Public Library. You can hear the angels singing, etc. (Enlargement is indeed large – 360 K.)

Three-dimensional Helvetica in Lucite.    Instead of the boring “eggshell” finish demanded by the ADA, the South Court Library’s permanent signage is mounted on transparent plastic panels. Braille is embossed into the living Lucite, and hot-pink Helvetica letters rise from the surface, casting oddball shadows
Accessible signage at South Court Auditorium, New York Public Library

It’s a design triumph, shocking, futuristic, and gaudy, but the signage appears to be in trivial noncompliance with the ADA’s requirements. Is that the problem? Not in practice. The problem is the requirements themselves, which make no sense. The ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities state:

Character Height
Characters and numbers on signs shall be sized according to the viewing distance from which they are to be read. The minimum height is measured using an upper case X. Lower case characters are permitted. [...]
Raised and Brailled Characters...
Letters and numerals shall be raised 1/32 in. (0.8 mm) minimum, upper case, sans serif or simple serif type and shall be accompanied with Grade 2 Braille. Raised characters shall be at least 5/8 in (16 mm) high, but no higher than 2 in (50 mm). [...]
Finish and Contrast
The characters and background of signs shall be eggshell, matte, or other non-glare finish. Characters and symbols shall contrast with their background – either light characters on a dark background or dark characters on a light background.

Hence, while lower case is “permitted,” letters and numerals “shall be... upper case.” I’ve never seen interior signage intended to be ADA-compliant that used lower case. It’s ridiculous to enforce all-capitals typesetting. The theory is that the blind visitor will be expected to learn fewer character shapes that way. The theory, further, holds that since the raised lettering amounts to only a couple of words, there is no reading-speed benefit in using upper and lower case. The result is thousands of signs in American buildings that SCREAM.

The whole point of these regulations is moot. Blind people can’t see wall signage from a distance. Sighted people can walk into an atrium or a hallway, spot the permanent signage, walk right up to it, and run their fingers over the raised print and Braille in a self-congratulatory way: See what wonderful accessible signage we have?

But a blind person cannot find the signs in the first place, save for tactually scanning the entire wall surface. (Mounting heights are relative to sign height [“60 in (1525 mm) above the finish floor to the centerline of the sign”], so not only do you have to traverse the entire wall length, you have to check a region expanding upward and downward to an unknown extent from a five-foot level, which is hard to estimate if you’re blind.) Some low-vision people may be able to detect that a shape on a wall is a sign, head over to it, and read the large print or raised lettering or Braille, but I suspect that they are exceptional even though low-vision people are a large segment of the visually-impaired population. The practical capacity to spot the sign, walk over to it, and understand it is what I call into question. Fine in theory, but it doesn’t actually work that way.

At best, tactually-readable signage functions as a verification that you, the blind person, have come to the right place – no doubt having gotten there by sense memory, very good verbal instructions, luck, or the assistance of a sighted guide.

The signage regs, which my old friend Paul Arthur claimed to have written in large part, mean well but accomplish little. The South Court’s signage appears to violate the background-colour requirements, if only in the EMERGENCY EGRESS sign’s chrome background, which is probably not a “non-glare finish.” The point is perhaps contestable. In practice, hot pink on chrome is probably easy enough to distinguish for a low-vision person. Such a person doesn’t have to approve of the colour choice, you know.

The designers took a few liberties. Probably just the right ones.

From an accessibility standpoint, Eric and I also adored the fact that the GREEN ROOM sign used hot-pink type. I think they used to run psychology-of-reading tests using stimuli of that sort.


One half of the Building Accessible Websites team has managed to reproduce. For the fourth time, admittedly, but at least the broader family line will perpetuate.

Introducing another child with a heavily typographic name: TADGH (“Everyone knows that gagh is best eaten live”):

Lorenz

Marc, Suzan, Amalia, Beckett and Maghnus are elated to introduce TADGH ATTICUS LORCAN [Sullivan-Lorenz], 8 pounds. Born at home June 2, 2003. Much love to Elizabeth Allemang, Katrina Kilroy, Wendy Katherine. Fourth grandchild for Georg and Liz Lorenz, Toronto, Anthea and Martin Sullivan, U.K. Servus bursch 3! Gaudeamus!

Mazel tov!

Interestingly, Amalia, the eldest, played a small part in production of the book, not at all giving a shit when the finished volumes arrived – why should she be impressed? daddy-o makes books all the time – and telling us in no uncertain terms that the hot-pink (South Court–like?) CD-ROM should actually have been orange.

And if we print a second edition, it will be.

2003.06.07

The Sony HF-2100 VCR was the Fifteenth Anniversary Betamax. The format was thus 15 years old in 1991 when that model was introduced. Twelve years later, an impossible find, a completely mint 2100 in box, sells for two thousand Amerikanski dollars on eBay. That’s over $2,700 Canadian. Thus, this specific machine represents $100 added each and every year over the entire lifespan of the Beta format, which is still in use even if not in production.

Can you name other technologies that appreciate at a constant rate for an entire generation?

And there I was upset when it crested a thousand.

In other news, I visited a tape house this week boasting the usual array of Beta SP, Digital Betacam, 1″, and other decks. My heart was won at the sight of a stack of four Betamax machines, one of them my exact model in mirror-world PAL.

2003.06.06

Inevitably, the February 1993 issue of Spy, featuring Hillary Clinton in what I am calling a bustier with a whip in her hand, would be reminisced.


Two queer metasites that wear their queerness in the marrow of their very URIs: QueerFilter; Gay News Blog, whose nomenclature is aggressively reductivist in the “Microsoft® Publisher Deluxe with Photo Editing version 2002” manner.

I believe there are other examples of echt-gay URIs. I suppose I could look those up.


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