I stayed up all night reading this hilarious memoir of growing up gay in the early 1990s, which is as addictive as the mind-altering substances that fill its pages.
In his last year of middle school in San Antonio, David Crabb—his bangs newly bleached—spends his lunch periods blissfully braiding his girlfriend’s hair and gushing about Taylor Dayne. But these idylls are interrupted when the school bully smacks him over the head with an encyclopedia, and the increasing calls of “faggot” in the hallways make it harder for him to ignore his locker room feelings after gym class.
There are other cases of anti-gay harassment in these pages, but what’s remarkable is how free this very funny book is of the usual coming out traumas. His mother’s eagerness to overshare—“open and honest,” she says before each cringeworthy revelation—is almost as difficult for David as his father’s discomfort with homosexuality, and neither parent ever gives him reason to doubt their love.
In high school, David meets Greg, a handsome, extremely fashionable fellow 9th grader who introduces him to Erasure and cigarettes and some pretty glorious dance moves you might recognize from your own high school career: “the ‘I’m Balancing on a Tightrope’ walk, the ‘Help, I’m Caught in a Sexy Spiderweb’ sway, the ‘Here, Let Me Erotically Deal this Deck of Cards’ hand flourish.”
They become inseparable, and one night while they’re sitting face-to-face with their hands on the plastic planchette of a Ouija board, David blurts out, “I think I’m gay.” Greg reciprocates with his own coming out—confirming what has been obvious to the rest of us for dozens of pages—and for the rest of their high school careers we watch the two of them teach each other how to be gay in a peculiarly early-90s New Wave way of lavishly gelled hair and tight jeans and far too much foundation. Thank God this book has pictures.
David’s other great friend from these years is Sylvia, an older girl he and Greg meet in a teen club one night and who wastes no time introducing David to pot. A self-professed “fag hag,” she continues Greg and David’s gay education, sneaking them into their first gay bars and teaching them about ball culture and what it means to be read.
She also teaches them about drugs. What starts with pot quickly extends to acid, ecstasy, cocaine, and a bewildering array of household chemicals: VHS cleaning fluid, Scotchgard, Freon, even a dismantled Vicks inhaler. Scenes of inebriation are one of this book’s marvels: Crabb writes them in a way that gives us access to the experience of being high, with all its wonder and sense of boundlessness, while also letting us see how ridiculous David and his friends are in their drug-addled hijinks.
And not just ridiculous: also very much at risk. As his drug use increases and Sylvia’s adventures and dares grow more and more deranged, David comes to realize that even as his friends have enriched his life, they’re also pushing him toward experiences he might easily not survive. As he thinks late in the book, they “exposed me to the very danger [they] saved me from.”
By the end of high school, David realizes how lucky he is to have parents who love him enough to intervene, moving him away from his friends without cutting him off from them entirely. I’m not sure I can call to mind another memoir that is so entirely free of rancor. No one is a monster in this book; almost no one is willfully cruel. What fills these pages instead is wonder at the luck of having been part of such an absurd, wondrous world, and love for the people who inhabited it.
Generous and big-hearted, Bad Kid is the first great read of the summer.
Mark Merlis’ ‘JD’
Helen Humphreys’ ‘The Evening Chorus’
Kim Fu’s ‘For Today I Am A Boy’
Joyce Brabner’s ‘Second Avenue Caper
Garth Greenwell’s debut novel, What Belongs to You, is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux in early 2016. His short fiction has appeared in The Paris Review and A Public Space. A recent graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was an Arts Fellow, he lives in Iowa City. Connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.
Coming up tomorrow, Crabb reads from Bad Kid in the next installment of our TowleREAD series.Sphere: Related Content
Gay of Thrones is back with more hilarious commentary on all the goings on in Westeros.
Find out what's happening with orphan ginge, evil Elijah Wood, Anne Hathaway, Munchers, the Lannister kids, Kim Kardashian, Christina Aguilera, Lionel Richie, blonde Cher, and more, AFTER THE JUMP... (warning: spoilers ahead!)
The Texas House of Representatives is expected to consider a proposal Tuesday that would give state-funded, faith-based child welfare agencies a license to discriminate against LGBT people.
GOP Rep. Scott Sanford (shown above with Sen. Ted Cruz) says his amendment is designed to protect adoption agencies like Catholic Charities, which has chosen to shut down rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws requiring them to serve same-sex couples in other states.
Sanford's so-called "religious freedom" measure began as a bill, but died before a House deadline two weeks ago. Then, he introduced it as an amendment last week, but Democrats used a procedural tactic to block its consideration. Now, it's back for a third time as an amendment to Senate Bill 206, which is on Tuesday's House calendar.
Of course, it's already legal for adoption agencies to turn away gay couples in Texas, which has no statewide LGBT protections. Major national child welfare groups have come out against Sanford's proposal, which would also run counter to proposed federal legislation, the "Every Child Deserves A Family Act."
Dan Quinn, a spokesman for the pro-LGBT Texas Freedom Network, said of Sanford's amendment in an email:
"Rep. Sanford's divisive and disgraceful political agenda has held hostage important legislation reauthorizing a state agency that helps abused and neglected children. He has repeatedly threatened to attach an amendment that would promote discrimination against LGBT families in matters involving foster care, adoption and child welfare placement services. Texas doesn't have enough foster homes, so why turn away qualified and loving families? And Sanford’s amendment is so broad that it would authorize child welfare agencies to discriminate against any family that doesn’t meet the organization’s religious or moral criteria — like interfaith couples or people who belong to a religion that’s different than a particular agency’s. It’s callous and shameful to put politics and discrimination ahead of the interests of vulnerable children."
More from Equality Texas, which is calling on people to contact House members and ask them to oppose the amendment:
"If enacted into law, the Sanford Amendment would allow child welfare providers to discriminate against not just gay and transgender families, but also against people of other faiths, interfaith couples and anyone else to whom a provider objects for religious reasons.
"The only consideration of a child welfare agency should be the best interest of the child – not proselytizing for a single, narrow religious interpretation."
Not surprisingly, the anti-LGBT hate group Texas Values is supporting the amendment, and has created an infographic (right) suggesting that it would somehow help a 5-year-old whose parents were killed in a fire find a home:
"In Texas, a large portion of our welfare providers, foster homes and adoption agencies are faith-based organizations. In other states, overbearing governments have essentially forced some faith-based organizations to close or stop services due to the organizations’ stance on Biblical marriage. This amendment would help ensure this does not happen in Texas."
The Texas House convenes at 10 a.m. Central time and likely will go until midnight because it's the last day for the chamber to consider contested bills from the Senate. With less than a week remaining in the legislative session, only one of the 20-plus anti-LGBT proposals introduced in Texas this year has passed. But Equality Texas ultimately withdrew its opposition to that bill, the so-called Pastor Protection Act, and two openly LGBT state representatives voted for it.
Watch the House proceedings live here.Sphere: Related Content
New Music is brought to you by Deadly Music! which covers mostly indie, alternative, electro pop, post rock and ambient music, with a bit of everything else deadly thrown in for good measure.
MAMMÚT - River’s End
Long successful in their native Iceland, MAMMÚT (above) is the latest signing to Bella Union and their new EP River’s End will be released on June 1st.
They recently gained prestige at home with their latest album “Komdu til mín svarta systir” winning the Icelandic Music Award for Best Album and the song ‘Salt’ awarded Best Song of the Year.
While the new English version is fantastic – as with The Sugarcubes there’s something more edgy and visceral on the original Icelandic version.
Listen to ‘Salt’ below in English and in the original Icelandic.
Fizzy Blood - “January Sun”
Despite having been together for just a year and having released only one song, the lads were invited to play Download Festival and have supported legendary punk outfit The Dead Kennedys.
Listen to new tracks by Joe & the Anchor, Young Wonder and colourspacecolour, AFTER THE JUMP...
Matt Baume with the American Foundation for Equal Rights reports on an Alabama minister who's receiving jail time for marrying a same-sex couple, Ireland's recent marriage equality victory and Gallup's latest poll showing landmark support for same-sex marriage in the US.
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
With Ireland’s historic vote in favor of same-sex marriage only days old, Tourism Ireland has released a new video promoting the country as a wedding and honeymoon destination for gay couples, reports The Journal.
The new campaign Ireland Says I Do - which is being rolled out in Britain, the United States, Canada, the Nordic region, Australia, France, Spain, Italy and Germany - has been developed over the past year in anticipation of a Yes vote.
Tourism Ireland states:
“Yes, it’s all about love in Ireland, from fun-tastic LGBT events like The Outing (the world’s first ever LGBT matchmaking festival) to some of the most romantic wedding locations on the plane.”
Watch Ireland Says I Do, AFTER THE JUMP...