by Peter Byrne
(Gore Vidal's Myra Breckinridge is forty years old in 2008. Robert Crumb's cartoon character Mr. Natural appeared a year before Myra in 1967.)
(Swans - July 28, 2008)
Myrn: Crumbo, isn't it? You still on your big feet?
Bob: Big shoes. My feet are actually quite dainty. I remember you. Myra or Myron, isn't it?
Myrn: Call me Myrn. I'm depleted. How did you make it out of the 1960s with all that stuff you were swallowing?
Bob: Kiddo, I played it dumb right up into high culture. Here, take one of these handbills. You ought to get in early. The Krauts are bringing out a signed limited edition, only 1000 copies, a snip at 700 smackeroos.
Myrn: 700 dollars?
Bob: Or 500 euros, or 400 pounds sterling.
Myrn: But you do dirty comic books?
Bob: Don't tell that to the Krauts. They're sensitive and you'll hurt their feelings.
Myrn: Gorino always said that except for him elite culture had tanked.
Bob: The Herr Docktors love me and I'm a national treasure for the Frogs. Down home in the South of France, vegetarians like me are prayed to like saints.
Myrn: So you hit the expatriate jackpot? Gorino tried that. But the Wops only remember his shiny automobile and his big house on top the cliff.
Bob: You must have tapered off too after 1968. With all that silicone going into you, you wouldn't have made the third thousand in one piece.
Myrn: I made it all right, but without any pieces at all. Everything had to come out.
Bob: Jeez, Myrn! Eeek! Gnung! Whew! Ouf! I feel for you though you never did bulk out much.
Myrn: Come on Crumbo. Don't pour the bright colors on. You can't make me believe you're still riding those pneumatic babes built like space ships.
Bob: No comet. I'm not talkin'. On paper I'm still truckin'. Just put down your 700 simoleons and you can glom it.
Myrn: What a planet! Gorino's put out to grass in cheap paperbacks and Crumbo's in the snooty art galleries.
Bob: Look, I don't want to do my Mr. Natural with you, but your Gorino started at the wrong end.
Myrn: No homophobia, please!
Bob: Forget sex, mine or your two. We know that was only a cover story.
Myrn: Your covers were lurid, Mad-Mag stuff.
Bob: Old Gory looked around at real people, Jackie K., that Capote widget or a Prez or two. Then he twisted them up to his taste and put them in his books.
Myrn: Norman Mailer socked him. He got to know 'em all, from what he said.
Bob: Unsmart move. You finish along with them in history's garbage pail.
Myrn: And what does Mr. Natural advise through his uplifted beard?
Bob: I started with the dog's breakfast that was myself, and stayed faithful.
Myrn: We weren't all elevated on magic juice.
Bob: Don't do your dim-bulb ingénue, Myrn. I went tripping afterwards. First came Ma and Pa. We start out with family members, a.k.a. creatures from the swamp. They fill out one life sentence nicely.
Myrn: Gorino strutted his stuff on the upper crust. He went into VIP lounges without wiping his feet. Then he told tales.
Bob: Your Gorino stood back as if he was the only level head around and accused the lot of being underwritten characters that needed touching up.
Myrn: His mom was no douche of love. His dad was up in his flying machine. His relatives didn't like fags. The New York Times held its nose and pretended Gorino was invisible.
Bob: Tough titties all down the line. But Mr. Natural says, "So friggin' what?"
Myrn: Life was rosier in your Cleveland.
Bob: My mom was incommunicado on pills. I had to turn my thoughts to the columnar hind hocks of her lady friends. My old man was a trained killer, a US Marine. He tried to enroll me and my two bros in his own suburban militia. We objected conscientiously and drew comic books where he starred as the monster from outer space.
Myrn: Shit. I'm glad I didn't have kids when I was a woman. What became of your brothers?
Bob: One bit the dust early. The other later. They could never get out from under the sergeant major.
Myrn: How did you make it into the new century?
Bob: Easy. Self-abuse and an hour of ukulele daily.
Myrn: I've lost my faith in self-improvement and surgery. If you paid attention to my story, you'd know I was tough on baby boomers and their diaper revolution.
Bob: Weren't we all, Myrn? I couldn't stand Rock 'n Roll. It shriveled my paintbrush.
Myrn: My put-downs of those L.A. wannabes were highly quotable.
Bob: Put-downs? As I remember it you went at them with a dildo.
Myrn: A thrust of prurience, Bob, to make a point.
Bob: You were strong on making points. I was happy with the one on top my head. Your spiel on overpopulation put me to sleep.
Myrn: Principles and punctuation you learnt to do without. I recall your braggadocio line: "More Sick Humor Which Serves No Purpose."
Bob: I was a born smut-hound, Myrn. You tried hard but you never got down to my level Gorino always wore a necktie and dumped well-dressed words on you. Have a look at what my Mr. Snoid is wearing in Anal Antics.
Myrn: I wasn't one of your Neanderthal perverts, but I was impressively dirty-minded in my own stylish way.
Bob: All dressed up like Raquel Welch, you couldn't get down in the mud to wallow.
Myrn: My wardrobe bespoke elegance and irony. Since I was eviscerated, what I put on my back counted.
Bob: Subtraction of organs, that was your downfall. I covered pages with them and you decided to do without. You were no smut-sniffer, just a neutered pedigree bitch.
Myrn: Don't tell me about the walls of public toilets. I researched both gents and ladies, but then rose above the stalls.
Bob: Have it your way Myrn. But your movie buff routine got on my tits. You kept remembering Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy while I was trying to forget them. Jeezis! Jane Leslie and Dane Clark!
Myrn: You think I was interested in Terry-Toons, Little Lulu, or Heckle and Jeckle? Gorino had me reading Parker Tyler and Lévi-Strauss.
Bob: That's exactly what ruined your nose for dirt at the bottom of the septic tank.
Myrn: So you got the Wankers' Nobel Prize while I was pioneering bad taste on bestseller lists and in the book clubs. Every artist his own leering public.
Bob: I'm a fine arteest but that sex change stuff is hard to draw. I stuck with the heteros. I'd put the key in the lock or a couple of other places. It made sense to my pencil.
Myrn: You kept truckin' like a 30-ton Mack Truck and just as subtle. I was into dialectics. You realize that the flick they made of me in '70 buried the Hays Code?
Bob: I heard it bombed.
Myrn: It made history. The first time female on male rape got onto mainstream celluloid.
Bob: Your dildo number?
Myrn: Don't be a furry-brained Fritz the Cat. The instrument you mention served as a symbol of my assault on heterosexual imperialism. While your slobs were soiling pages in the same old way I wielded the lance of unisex.
Bob: You could have put me out of business with that genderless stuff.
Myrn: I thought Mr. Natural was Ms. Anything Goes?
Bob: Don't hit me below the belt, Myrn, or I'll strip you down to the empty spaces where the silicone used to be.
Myrn: You watch yourself or Gorino will take a swing at you in his next memoir.
Bob: Right. I'll be name-droppable when the Krauts split all those $700s with me. You tell him to forget about truckin'. "Big feet equals collective optimism" is the Crumbo quote for the chopped liver millennium.
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