Friday, November 14, 2014

Cravings

Spencer Dryden

Cravings
As an erotic writer, a natural topic for this post might be my sexual cravings. I've stated here and  other places that my interest in erotica is an expression of my seemingly life-long enslavement by female allure. However, outside of my fantasy life in fiction, I can't act on those cravings and hope to remain outside a prison with real bars, or worse, dead at the hands of a jealous lover.
I'm currently on a blog tour promoting my latest book. (look to your right) If you really want to know more about my sexual cravings, you can find my posts all over the blogosphere. I think I've done twelve in the last two weeks. My friend and crit partner Meg Amor (yes, that's her real name) and I have done a series of discussions on all manner of things. Our latest is on fantasy guys and girls. I have a thing for tall women that we explore on her blog. It's lots of fun. Go there if you like and tell us about YOUR FANTASY LOVER. (You'll have to scroll down to the Nov 4th post)
I could also write about my twin jones of coffee and doughnuts. I  am an insufferable coffee snob. My wife and I pack our own beans, grinder and coffee maker whenever we travel. I have driven miles out of my way to get a cup of  good coffee. I have circles on my trip map to Florida showing the Starbucks locations. (They don't all appear on the smart phone). Once you get south of Indianapolis good coffee joints get harder to find. In my handyman work at home I have a map in my head of the location of a coffee shop in relation to assigned jobs, which take me to all corners of the greater Minneapolis/St. Paul area.
Don't hate on me. It's cheaper and less obnoxious than being a wine snob—that would be my baby brother, who is about one class short of being a sommelier . Don't go out with him unless he's buying. He's a food and beverage manager at a five star restaurant. He really knows his stuff because he has to. He chides me for my love of cheap oaky Chardonnay's. I've made him into a coffee snob.
Doughnuts. I'm trying my best to part with them. At times it seems hopeless, especially considering how they enhance a cup of good coffee. But the scale is telling me it's time to try again. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
My fellow writers here have been so forthcoming about the trials and demons in their lives that I thought I should try to explore my most destructive craving—fame and fortune.
Now it's not a bad thing to be rich or famous. It's the motivation that causes one's undoing.  I don't know what men grow up wanting today. When I was growing up, a man was measured by two things—how much money he made and what kind of position he held. Then comes the twist—those two things had a big impact on the kind of women he could meet. (Back to my life long allure thing.) Vonnegut explains the two primary male motivations succinctly in the opening of "Breakfast of Champions"-gold and wide open beaver.
It started around age ten for me. Come with me for a moment to my neighborhood barbershop-a place where men gathered to talk, and, if a ten year old boy was lucky, someone left the Playboy Magazine open to the centerfold when he was called to the barber's chair. I remember so clearly the first time I got the money/male/power connection. A guy had just left, pulling out in a well appointed new sedan. The barber who attended him said in a low register. 'He (name withheld) told me he paid over four thousand dollars in personal income taxes last year.' This was 1960. Four thousand dollars is a lot of money now. It was nearly a fortune then, at least in a working class community like mine. Most of the men in the shop didn't make four thousand dollars a year. The look of awe and admiration on the faces of the other men imprinted on to some permanent scoreboard in my mind. I wanted to be that guy. It wasn't really the money. I was too young to have an appreciation for money beyond what I needed to feed my doughnut jones. It was the admiration and even envy I found as enticing as the pictures in the Playboy Magazine I kept peeking at. The Freudian twist. If other men admired me, maybe I could admire myself.
As I said, there is nothing inherently wrong with wealth, if it is a natural result of dedication and excellence. However, since that time, I have craved wealth as a tool achieving a positive self-image. It's perverted motives not perverted ends. Isn't that a recurring topic in Shakespeare?
Wealth and fame seem to travel together like coffee and doughnuts. I came to crave fame as much as wealth. Again, all I had to do was look at the way men responded to the athletes of the day to make me practice harder at what ever sport I was mastering. And the girls, oh the girls liked the athletes. The athletes got the prettiest girls.
I had a brief brush with fame in high school. If crack is as addictive, it's no wonder there is so little hope of recovery. I was an accomplished athlete from early on—pick a sport, I excelled at it. I finally settled on basketball—probably a bad choice as I hadn't picked the right parents. I was small, even for my age but I got good enough that the older guys would let me play in playground games. As a high school freshman, I was nearly drilled  to death in basketball fundamentals by one of the great coaches/mentors of my life. I had the tools, just not the size. My sophomore year I made varsity, a fete only a handful of sophomores had done in the school's history. No fame, no girls, it was hard, humbling and at times, humiliating. I was so burned  out by the end of the season I had planned on quitting sports.
In between my sophomore and junior year my parents moved the family from Milwaukee to the Madison area. We settled in a near-by farming community that was ten minutes and thirty years from Madison. It was a place where high school sports was the main entertainment in the community. I had decided I wasn't going to try out for any sports. I had grown a lot physically over the last year but emotionally I was shot. Then reality came to visit. I didn't have anything in common with farm kids who'd grown up together. I was lonely. I decided to try out for basketball and made the team easily.
I was invisible at the local barbershop, listening in to the talk of the town and still trying to get a peek at the Playboy. If I'd been killed in a hit and run accident, there would have been no one who could identify me. That all changed a couple of weeks later when I played in my first basketball game. They'd never seen the likes of me before. The local radio announcer once described me as the biggest 5'9" guy he'd ever seen. I had a thirty six in vertical. I could almost dunk a basketball. I had learned to do tip-ins both left and tight handed, I dribbled just as fast left handed as right. My coach used film of my jump-shot as training material.  I'd learned an aggressive, physical style of play. I was an on-court leader with a attitude. My older sister told me I looked so menacing she wanted to root for the other team.

In one day I went from being nobody to the talk of the town. Suddenly, everyone at school knew who I was, and yes, I got to talk to, and even date cheerleaders. The next time I went into the barbershop, the conversation stopped and every eye in the place was on me. The barber greeted me by name. I got so busy talking to the patrons I couldn't look at the Playboy. I loved being in the spotlight. For just a little while I was "that guy."
After high school, the fame disappeared, but not the craving for it. Fame made my life easy and for a while it raised my self-image, but it was fleeting, like the cheerleaders. I'm sorry to say I spent most of my adult life chasing after fame and fortune. It lead to poor career choices, poor relationships, a terrible first marriage. It took me years to realize that basketball had made me famous because I had worked at it and developed the body and skills to compete at a high level. I never developed the tools to carry me into the adult world. I failed at everything. But it was because of the wrong motives.
Still, I got close to fame and fortune on several occasions with insurance product design, a television show, and inventions. Just one more break in any of these endeavors and you wouldn't know Spencer Dryden. As my writing mentor, John Leicht says, "Marketplace success is a convergence of highly improbable events." Too true. The motivational speakers I worshipped never gave enough credence to perfect timing and extraordinary good luck to go along with the long hard work and a positive mental attitude. 

I spent my white collar years feeling invisible, vulnerable, and perpetually anxious, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It did, mostly on my head.
Time has brought some wisdom. One day, in total despair,  I found myself asking why I had to do all these things to get people to like me just so I could like myself. Why couldn't I skip all that achievement stuff and simply like myself? It was the start of the journey that brought me here.
Along the way I discovered that I had a natural talent for the mechanical trades. The basis of my life changed from external to internal validation. I'm very good at what I do. I am homo habilis rex. I have more work than I want. A while back an old high school friend made this logo for me.


 
 I'm not over it by any means. The challenge of my writer's life is trying to keep it from triggering a relapse into my fame and fortune seeking mode. When I got my first book contract, I saw myself being interviewed by Charlie Rose. Thankfully, I can look at the Playboy now without recrimination.  Would you mind passing the doughnuts?

20 comments:

  1. A heartfelt post, Spencer. It's good to be honest with oneself. I was never very good at sports, but I could dance. That was my way into an 'in' clique in high school. It enabled me to get close to girls, for god's sakes! Not all of it was the fast dances; there was always the 'grind'. Come to think I lost some girls that way too, but I did get slapped in the face to even things up. :>( And there were those other times when the girl ground right back. :>) Yum.

    The trick is:
    Determine what you're good at, or what you enjoy doing so much you'd do it without pay. Then figure a way to make money at it. Since I can't really afford to pursue a hobby in the depth I'd want to pursue it, I've always tried to turn my hobbies into enterprises, much as you are doing with your inventions. Any bites on your barbecue, BTW?

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    1. Daddy:
      Bites on my barbecue-please tell me you meant to be punny. No bites, not even a nibble. At this point it doesn't matter much. I enjoyed many fine grilled meals over the years. It was good for my OCD to have something to think about that was physical. I realized that I'm good at fixing things but not people. When the last prototype died, I decided I'd had enough.

      Discovering my true talent late in life has really helped me with raising my boys. I encourage them pursue their interests with abandon.

      I got into dancing in the 80's, learning ball room dance, especially swing. Dancing is foreplay.

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    2. Heh, sorry about the pun. Couldn't resist. Dancing is indeed foreplay, as long as it's done right. Yeow!

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    3. Are you kidding? I love puns-a sign of higher intelligence.

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  2. Hey, Spencer,

    Thanks for your honest, heartfelt post. It's a bit sad that you spent so much of your life thinking fame and fortune would make you likeable, but at least you've come around to the truth - you *are* likeable, just the way you are.

    And I'm delighted that you shifted the topic in the direction of another sort of craving. Very deft.

    Meanwhile, I hope your blog tour bears fruit. It's tough getting noticed. Believe me, I know!

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    1. Thanks Lisabet:

      Blog tours. I'm dancing as fast as I can. I've always thought that the Norman Mailer, Gove Vidal tiffs were started by the marketing departments of their publishers. Maybe I need to pick a fight with someone.

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    2. Speaking of classic opponents, I always liked the Norman Mailer/Wm. F. Buckley stand-offs. Often it looked like a burping contest. What a show.

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    3. Buckley was one of my intellectual hero's. I met him once in what turned into a comical situation. If you think he looked bad on TV you should have seen him in person.

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    4. Hmmm... And Mailer was one of mine.

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    5. Yeah cool but I won a pissing contest with Buckley.

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  3. I think at some point its natural we all begin to question the things that have driven us in our lives. Also because the phase of our life is beginning to change. I've always suspected that man's great achievements in art, war and civilization are simply our attempts to impress girls. We are only what we are.

    Garce

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  4. Hmm. Should we conclude that women's theoretical lack of achievements is due to not trying to impress girls? Or to spending so much time trying to impress men?

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    1. Sacchi:
      You must be kidding if you think women's lack of achievement is theoretical. In my adult lifetime (and yours) women's achievements are phenomenal. When I showed up at college in 1968 at the first meeting of the pre-medical students association one brave "girl" (we were all 18 then) asked the Dean of the Medical School about the chances of a woman being admitted to medical school. Without a moment's hesitation he said, "Very unlikely." Shit. I think nearly half of the incoming class at the medical school of my alma mater is women now. There is no way to say that women haven't overcome and achieved great things. I don't know if they did it to impress the boys, though.

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    2. Women's achievements (in my experience) are more likely to drive men away. At least men of my generation. I had a boyfriend break up with my in high school because he told me I intimidated him. (He was the top male in the class grades-wise. I was the top female.)

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  5. Spencer, by "theoretical" I meant that the "lack" part was spurious. Yes, there's been achievement throughout history, generally against heavy odd. These days I doubt that women try to impress men with their achievement, since they still have the odd (or is it?) impression that men will like them less if they do things as well as men do. Those who go for it anyway are more likely figuratively thumbing their noses at men than trying to make a favorable impression. Or, even more likely, they just go ahead with what they know they can do without paying attention to what men think.

    I know the guys here don't really think badly of women who succeed as well as men, but have you seen the recent flood of virulent misogyny loosed against women who dare to speak out against discrimination in the video game community? And the way "feminist" has become a dirty word, and not in a good way? Times a re still tough, and in some ways getting tougher.

    But I was clearly derailing the discussion of cravings, and I apologize.

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  6. Spencer, your post looks honest and moving. However, I also noticed the gender-specific nature of a desire to become outstanding at something as a way to attract a date. When I was in my last year of high school, I won a major award in a national student writing contest. My boyfriend had entered too, but he didn't even get honorable mention. (For the past year, he had relied on me to edit his essay assignments for English class.) He accused me of being on an "ego trip," and dumped me. He promptly found a younger girl who was apparently less ambitious than I was, and who admired him more.
    I suspect we have all secretly craved fame in some form, but the consequences of getting it vary according to who or what we are expected to be.

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  7. Jean:
    You are correct, I was speaking only for myself and my twisted motives. There's no question that society has laid a strange burden on girls/women, much more so in my youth than now.

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  8. Really interesting stuff about your time playing basketball. I don't have the energy right now to wrap my brain around all the gender stuff we have going on in this post and in the comments. These are deep, disturbing issues.

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    1. Hope you find some energy, but not to worry, most of these events are a half century old. a few more days won't matter.

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