Chapter Forty-Eight

 “Matters of a sexual nature 
can sink into preternaturally 
prickly affairs.”

          “So don’t go thinking it’s me…”

          “No, god no…”

          “This isn’t about me, understand—good thing they’re not my issues, not one lick.”

          “I get it, Romeo, your equipment’s always good to go.”

          “It’s just so totally pathetic, I mean with all those ads for TestosterBoost and AndroGel for Low T, lost libido and pre-jac…”

          The fog began barging back in the Golden Gate, cold, dripping with atmospheric vengeance. But more immediately ahead on the Bay Trail were these ersatz playdaters, some guy sporting photochromatic Maui Jim shades, a tight-ass little L.A. associate realtor transplant shy on local listings.

          Wearing a tropical shirt and hard-creased Agave power jeans crunching his junk, he glided along in Nike comfort slides, sanitary white Wigwams and an Anaheim Angels halo ballcap, aromatically into body washes, foot massage lotions and other minor man card violations—somewhat a pipefish with porn stash, cut loose from his OC man cave lugging a hot thuringer manwich and manly musette bag. Didn’t anyone shave around here anymore?

          Humoring alongside was a floppy, hang-loose, big-boned tomboy former Yahoo coder, casually working him in a washed-out Stanford sweatshirt and bleachy blue clammers. Slightly taller though slouching to build him up, she looked to be staring into the abyss of unattached middle age. I had seen them both before around Chestnut Street, just never together like this.

Crissy trail crowd

          “Who needs that stuff, right,” she said, averting her gaze to the fogging over Gate beyond.

          “Not yours truly, that’s for damn sure. Like with the Sex-for-Life therapy BS… and those penis erectdys implants. As if size really matters, right? Heh, heh—it’s what you do with what you got,” her hirsute companion replied. “All that Viagra and Cialis pill crap—boners 24/7. Go frickin’ blind, why don’t ya? Total snow job, if you ask me.”

          “Yep, keepin’ it real, Ringo—no pills, no powders. All you gotta do is act naturally, long as you can…”

          “That’s what I’m talkin’ about—wouldn’t touch that shit with a 12-inch pole.”

          “Way to be, studly…go big or go home…” She wrapped his sagging, once thewy shoulders.

          “Damn straight—dude’s gotta know his own boys…”

          “Especially in San Fran…”

          “Fuck, it’s getting brutal out here…”

          “OK, big guy, let’s do a 180…talk about sackin’ up,” she sighed, as the pair turned back from further battling the chill, buffeting wind. Way too long playing one of the guys, she was shaking her strawberry bowl-cut hair as they passed us by, kicking the trail sand with her strap-around Torin sandals, simmering on low flame, plainly horny as landlocked toad.

          “See there, poor joker probably can’t raise the flag to save his life,” Reese Paulen snapped, making sure we kept moving forward. “As if women really know what they want, anyhow—what is good and right for them. Trust me, I know of these things…”

          “You mean you’re flagging…” I dialed in tighter.

          “Me? Most assuredly no. But some colleagues…”

          A park ranger scooted past us on a wide-tire Segway, repeatedly shouting, ‘Air alert’, or ‘Fair alert’—something like that, but nobody paid much attention, leaving him to lean forward, accelerating into the wind. Instead, trail traffic persisted in lingering about those re-emerging EcoGlobes. Fare alert—what were they charging for now? Spare the air alert, tear alert? More seismic shockwaves, a problem with the next cluster of globes? Half hearing, I could barely make it out, even when seashell cupping my crusting ears. Still, I couldn’t help but track the bush-helmeted crier on out toward an old Coast Guard compound. Seemed that something in fact might be in the air.

          “The colleague being your…hitch?”

          “Heavens no. On that score, I was thoroughly blindsided,” doc continued, opening his spigot one headwinded step at a time. “Acting Dean Grammersly summoned me to her office one day, between Social Cognition and Primary Deviance lectures yet, asserting I had allegedly crossed some lines.”

          “Lines,” I asked. Bingo, here we go, total exposure zone. “Says who…”

          “A lip-glossed lynch mob, that’s who,” Paulen spouted, suddenly unburdening himself on this gravelly, gender neutral ground. “It all started when a journalism professor stirred up campus buzz about that pervert, John Mark Carr, of all things. Before long, some disgruntled former research assistant of mine filed a sexual harassment complaint against me for fostering a hostile work environment within the Sociology Department—dredging a slew of other ex-students out of the woodwork with ludicrous sob stories.”

          “Hmmm—kind of a concerted gang jape?” Now I got a sense of that CU alumna’s scorn over by the Chestnut Street bakery.

          “Far, far worse. The vicious, man-hating strumpets accused me of everything from unwelcome advances to coercive groping and oral copulation to make their grades. They claimed the unwelcome predatory flirting and assaults had been going on for years, and it was time for redress—painted me as some sore of Clintonian dirty old man. Slandered by some skinny little rich bitches spoiling around campus in their big, fat Range Rovers and X-5 Beemers.”

          “Wow, and I feel guilty weird for gettin’ off on Beyonce and Taylor Swift…” At the same time, I resisted recalling my resentment of out-of-state luxury wheels Saturnian ages ago. But if he could get this wound up over that kind of rigmarole, paydirt plus. So relax, assume autopilot airplane mode and let him spin out—this wasnt like back in the day at all, was it? Dont know what his trip is now, but I’m so much better today than then, right? Just got to keep it light, no matter what…

          Way better to fix on a globe selection across the trail, another haunting collage of vaguely familiar imagery, this one themed ‘Via Public Transportation’, plastered with carbon-cutting buses and tiny Yellow and Checker taxicabs—the colors and markings of which sent hawkish Michigan Avenue shivers down my spine that even a fogging-over Golden Gate Bridge International Orange backdrop couldn’t temper.

          “Utter fabrication…not one iota of truth in any of it,” Paulen huffed, pulling in on his jacket lapels. “Some occasional casual banter, at most. But I did not have sex with those women! Nevertheless, try telling that to Helen Grammersly, who bought their mandatory reporter slanders sight unseen. She proceeded to conduct a sham departmental inquiry, concluded I had violated Title IX, basically suspending me via administrative leave on charges of moral turpitude. Then the CU Faculty Council and president’s office made it unpaid. So much for my tenure… their witch hunt is cutting me off at the professional knees.”

          “Relieved of duty, for what? A little gaping and gandering,” I asked, cocksure for once, itching for more. “Gives a whole new meaning to the concept of peer review…”

          “Hilarious, but this is no laughing matter,” Paulen persisted, conveniently raising his voice. “Grammersly went on and on about the pressure she was under. That the complaint cited as how more than 60% of all female college students had been sexually harassed, one in four had been touched or grabbed against their will—even Boulder’s football team attacking the woman placekicker case. And that these poor, violated post-grads were intent on doing their part to fight back at ‘non-consentual sexual behavior’, including the threat of a class action lawsuit if remedial action was not taken. Honest to God, where was DeCole Lerndon when we needed him?”

          “Remedial, meaning you…”

          That stiffening wind whipped up the typically glassine tidal marsh, pixelizing its reflective bridge tower imagery, not to mention how it now white-capped the bay. Gulls, the errant brown pelican took flight on our left flank, terns and black Brandts cormorants flitted about marshy mud flats, surrounded by pitted scrub brush and knee-high fencing —scattered kestrels and dunlins out-wading the hardier coots and sandpipers for surfacing shellfish, sea scraps and organic debris in a boisterous flurry of waterfowl. Such a big ruckus over such trifling spoils: once past a wire gate and intersecting Crissy footpath, we at the very least left that particular flap behind.

          “Precisely, and they weren’t about to settle for standard reprimands or faculty-student love contracts,” said doc, with a knotted wrinkle in his game face. Those bitter shrews were after my head on a mortarboard.”

          “With your jewels on the tassels, huh?”

          “Post haste,” Paulen raised his attaché, bracing it against his chest to break the wind. “In any event, the entire affair got caught up in campus departmental politics. I submit I have fallen victim to a gender ambush, not to mention a generational putsch—boot the doddering Boomer off the ever-lovin Quad. You watch, theyll replace me with a woman—a token conservative woman, at that. Ever since Catherine MacKinnon days, females have been taking the whole school over. Before long, even the fraternities will be sororial history. Must do away with the toxic masculinity, now mustn’t we? ”

          “Just ask Bubba and John Edwards,” I posited, refreshing images of café confabs on a spanking new Pearl Street Mall, of my own steaming over Professor Helen Grammersly, still steeping enough to help me fend off the cold. “Somehow I recall the feeling, but nothing like your deal. Too bad you didn’t have ol’ Dean Cross in your corner.”

          “Yes, well,” doc said dismissively, “their multicultural purge was conflated with the blasted Ward Churchill saga, just what I needed. As if it weren’t enough with the ‘Little Eichmanns’ treatise after 9/11. But then the pompous ass had the audacity to stick by his goofball gaff and parade around the country claiming the school was bent on stifling his freedom of speech…”

          “Yeah, he was out here at Cal, putting CU-Boulder on public trial,” I noted, too dutifully tuned in now to shiver or skate. “Berkeley applauded him…”

          “He did the same on CNN, defending his essay as protected expression, all but defying CU to dismiss him on national TV, vowing to sue the university if it did.”

          “Ethnic Studies Department, huh? Started off in ’78, about the time I was…in transition…”

          “Special opportunity position, tenured without so much as a doctorate,” Paulen said derisively. “Student groups have rallied around him, chanting McCarthyism with standing ovations as he kept sticking it in the university’s eye. The Faculty Assembly held its nose and backed him, too. What was the administration to do? Meanwhile, none of this was helping my situation one blessed bit.”

          “Yeah, bad timing at beloved CU-Boulder,” I said, counting the kites flying line straight, high over clearing ahead, while sticking close to the professor. “I still know that tune by heart. Didn’t I read where Churchill’s going on 58 years—just like you were around then…”

sr dingbats

          Keying in turn on the further fog build-up around the Golden Gate, I nearly veered into a run of speed-shoe walkers, hot on the trail of some thermal relief. By now, bridge towers were again visually breaking up behind the thickening gray soup, its 4,200 foot-long deck vanishing, let alone the marine traffic below and Marin Headlands beyond.

          Frigid on-shore winds blew sand in all along the shoreline and dune brush on this long, narrow shoal to our starboard. Granules creviced in everywhere: eye sockets and scalps, through nostrils and ear canals, grinding between teeth and gums like a walk-up credit dental drill. But even hypoglycemia dips and gnawing Liverpool’s hunger weren’t diverting my attention to these details.

          “All I know is it wasn’t too long before I first heard rustlings in my department,” Paulen related, seemingly deep in his reflective weeds. “I see this as part of a larger university effort to dispense with all ol’ 60s-70s faculty firebrands to bring in the cheaper, buttoned-down young adjunct grinds.”

          “As in generational smoke signals?”

          “As in vague rumors around the faculty lounge, that eventually swirled around me,” Paulen lamented. “But at least the Standing Committee on Research and Misconduct panel hasn’t accused me of plagiarism or misrepresentation.

          Freshly minted mommies to some matrons of early middle age, that strolling estrogen contingent retreated by us in anatomically correct ensembles, down to high-compression socks, waving their Jazzercised deltoids, bi and triceps in Curathon formation, all but taking out Paulen’s flinching left shoulder. We could overhear everything from Chic to Firestarter pulsing from their stereo ear buds.

          Throw in the Asian group shuffling toward their tour bus in the outbound lane to our right, cloaking their pocket Chins, Chow-Chows and Shihtzus, and we found ourselves being squeezed into center trail. Good for conversation’s sake, otherwise too close for comfort if I’d had my druthers, especially way out here. And there again, a bright orange turbo helicopter thwapped by, low flying, patchy treetop sweeping overhead.

          “So, it’s faculty free speech versus reactionary purges, huh…headed for Boulder courts?”

          “No, Denver, or points east, where all the angry red Colorado Republicans are,” doc shuddered. “But this whole termination-reinstatement melee is going to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and ruin it for everybody there.”

          “Beginning with you?”

          A wild-grass berm rose opened gently to our left, elevating toward a vast green commons, the Great Meadow, that stretched clear over to Mason Street’s former army structures, at least several football fields long, nearly out to the coastal hills: This patch I knew well, albeit in an earlier scenario.

          That was when I used to run Crissy Field’s overgrown runway here, long before the National Park Service zeroed in to rip out the asphalt and fuel-debased grounds to reclaim the prized bay front landscape into urban eco-civility. Pounding pavement half out of breath, I would revisualize the whole Army-Air Corps scene—here where stiff windsocks, open bay hangars and cordons of company barracks stood in armed aeronautical support of DH-4Bs and Douglas 0-25s. Once Army/Air’s strongest coastal station, Crissy was visited for airborne inspiration by the likes of Frances Marshal Foch.  Old Crissy Field

          “But as to my current situation, the sosh department continues its faculty committee review, leading to a formal administrative process. I’ve received written notification of same, with guidelines as to due process, etc,” Paulen recounted, apparently oblivious to the breathtaking bay front transformation. “Privately, Grammersly told me that some Colorado Springs legislator types were threatening sanctions or department funding cuts for all the bad press. So she’s instead quietly placed me on paid suspension while a judicial review board conducts its ‘rigorous’ investigation, and moral-turpitude case evaluation of the grounds for termination for cause. How is one to fight for reinstatement amid all that?”

          Blink twice and I could have been gliding alongside open cockpit, wood and fabric-covered mono and biplanes, when this was but a cut-grass, runway, the revving props of Curtis Jennies dusting the taxiway. Wave I would to the daredevil DeHavillands spitting backfire, barely clearing the coastal tree line upon take-off—to Crissy Army Airfields namesake, a major-grade ace who crashed his pioneer puddle jumper on a transcontinental test flight. Heroic, legendary, record-breaking, seat-of-the-pants missions, all right—these were nothing less than the vital, unwavering rigors of coastal defense. Old Crissy Airstrip

          Today, flight plans on this sodded strip were limited to a squadron of smurfy silk-screened box kites, day-glo ragtails dangling where courier mail hooks and short-wave radio antennae used to be. Limited save for those contemporary dirigibles, which were getting harder and harder to spot in the grey-white mounding fog.

          “Whew, moral turpitude…” Otherwise, I was just trying to figure out if he was Albert Schweitzer or Woody Allen. But c’mon, yoke up, accelerate, undercarriage rising 3-5%, rotation aloft…patches of blue were beginning to shine through…

          “Might as well have been mortal turpentine, it was that toxic and difficult to swallow—and yet, mine is purely a case of collateral damage…”

          “Or Saturnian damage,” I mused, fixing on some amateur mycologists combing on hands and knees this side of the meadow for some shiitake, matsutake or other funny mushrooms, if not stringy longhairs more hoping to be diggin’ on some death caps. “Kinda funny, though—a Jewish Valentino—the second coming of Ricardo (Krantz) Cortez…”

          “Jewish nothing, this is all about my other, scaly and shallower Euro end of the gene pool.”

          “Really? Okay, doc, I’m up for a swim…”

Care for more?

Chapter 49. Personal repudiation and 
 redemptive re-identification spark a
reappraisal of distant methods and practices…