Balthazar’s Seven Redeeming Virtues

After recently carrying on about the majority of humanity being possessed by demons (the seven deadly sins), I got to wondering about that minority of folks who aren’t. Probably under the influence of my early Catholic upbringing, I think they’re the virtuous ones.

Since my catechism lessons had always concentrated on the sins and said very little about virtue, I had to Google virtuous qualities and was surprised to find a wide range of lists with varying numbers of items. Pope Gregory counted seven; another scholarly opinion figures eight; the catechism lists four cardinal virtues; Buddhists and Bushido (Samurai) teach seven differing ones; the Stoics (Aristotle, Plato, etc.) consider four; general theology lists only three; and the Sikhs and Confucius offer five in different sets.

There was lots of overlap and redundancy in the several lists. I threw them all into a semantic blender, and the seven categories that settled out were most similar to Gregory’s. While that Pope was a whiz with his calendar revision and new style of chanting, his philosophy was less than rigorous, and his seven virtues really boil down to only five.

In my agnostically authoritative list I’ve added in parentheses all the definitions, synonyms, aspects, and corollaries that I could pull out of my vocabulary. You might easily think of more to add, but I bet you won’t find a new category.  If you do, please let me know!

Here then are Balthazar’s Seven Redeeming Virtues:

CHARITY (Generosity, Sacrifice, Altruism, Philanthropy, Helpfulness, Sharing)

COMPASSION (Patience, Kindness, Love, Mercy, Sympathy, Tolerance)

COURAGE (Diligence, Fortitude, Confidence, Valor, Perseverance, Hope, Initiative)

HUMILITY (Honor, Respect, Modesty, Renunciation, Gratitude, Contentment)

HONESTY (Justice, Sincerity, Fidelity, Truth, Faith, Integrity)

MODERATION (Temperance, Chastity, Morality, Self-discipline, Prudence)

PERSPICACITY (Wisdom, Insight, Discernment, Understanding, Perceptive)

Humility Redeems All Species.

Apart from Humility being the best antidote for Pride and Courage curing Sloth, the rest of these virtues are a great medical cocktail for treating the other deadly sins. But how can we convince the demon-possessed majority to acknowledge their addictions and take their medicine?  If only there were some way to inoculate folks with Honesty and Compassion, a pill to take for Charity and Moderation, or an operation that would activate the Perspicacity gland!

I’ve seen a poster that exhorts: TEACH TOLERANCE!  But I’m not sure one can actually teach virtues.  Obviously, the deadly sins can be taught though.  They are modelled and encouraged by our economic system, by the entertainment and advertising industries, and in almost all our personal and political relationships.  Sadly, virtues don’t sell well nowadays, and folks who practice them are mostly seen as boring do-gooders—or naïve fools.

And about virtue being its own reward: I don’t buy that old saw.  I sincerely believe that the reward of virtue is peace and joy.  At least that’s why I try to practice it.

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Hog Heaven

In my previous blog post I mentioned my prize-winning Poland China hog named Cornpone (the Magnificent), which made me a bit sentimental about pigs. So I went to my archive of photos and pulled out the snapshot I took of him dated September 28, 1957.

Cornpone, Champion Poland China hog, 1957

Oddly, after these 61 years the Kodacolor print has taken on the true color of the subject, a magenta-toned sepia. It lends the memory a certain monumentality.  He is standing by his trough in which I would dump a daily bucket of slops (scraps from our truck stop café across the highway) and mix nice messes of special mash to make him fat.

Cornpone’s pen was a good-sized area next to that for Daddy’s twelve brindle hunting hounds. The picture was taken from the edge of his wallow in the foreground.  I’d also bring buckets of water every day to keep it suitably muddy, and he’d loll around in the muck, grunting and snorting.  That’s where I learned the truth of the old saw “happy as a pig in hot mud.”

We kept our herd of several hogs (the pinker variety) in a pen down past the pasture at the edge of the woods—where their stench couldn’t reach up to the house or yard. It was also my exhausting duty to haul many buckets of slops to them each day and to keep their wallow wet.

Periodically we’d slaughter maybe three of the herd at a time, and neighbor folks from around helped with the hot and heavy work. First, Daddy would lean over the fence with his rifle and shoot a hog between the eyes.  It would drop like a rock.  Then he’d jump in and slit its throat, letting the blood run into the wallow.

A few of the men would drag the carcass out of the pen and up the hill to where some huge iron pots were boiling on wood fires. They’d haul the hog up on ropes over a tree limb and lower it into the boiling water for a moment to scald the hair off.  Then they’d hang it up from another branch for the butchering.

When they’d spit the stomach open, I was always grossed out by the cascade of guts but had to help with sorting out the intestines for sausage-casings. Brandishing great knives, they’d toss slabs of hog-fat into another iron pot to render out the lard and make chitlings (pork rinds).

The butchering would take most of a day, and it was quite a community party. We’d wrap up the cuts of hams, loins, and so on to put in our big walk-in cooler, and folks would take turns on the big grinder making sausage.  The neighbors were happy to get shares of the meat and buckets of lard for their work.  And we had loads of fresh pork to sell in the café.

Cornpone didn’t share the rustic fate of our common hogs. That fall we took him to the Sevier County Fair in DeQueen, Arkansas, where he won the Blue Ribbon.  After his big win, he went to a more sophisticated hog heaven.  Being a simple country boy of fifteen, I sold my champion hog to a meatpacker and bought myself a pair of cowboy boots with turquoise tops.  My young feet outgrew them within a year.

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Gem of Wisdom #100

To celebrate this one-hundredth posting on my blog, I offer another gem of wisdom for what it’s worth to the many millions who don’t read my postings.

I’m not one given to thumping on the holy books of any sect, except for plagiarizing the Aztec codices, but that’s a matter of art. However, I keep thinking of the biblical parable of demonic possession because it seems particularly cogent nowadays.

From my naïve (and eccentric) position, it sure looks to me like the majority of the human race is possessed by demons. Those evil spirits are easily named as the traditional seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth—and all the synonyms and corollaries under each…  These behaviors are deadly not only to the perpetrator but also to everybody else.  Infection by even one of them is like poison in a well.  Complexes, which are frighteningly frequent (and painfully apparent in certain public figures!), are especially lethal.  By the way, I’m talking here about the whole world.

So what happens in the biblical parable? The demons are exorcised, i.e., driven out, into a herd of undeserving swine that stampedes off a cliff into the sea and drowns.  Nice way to dispose of trash, I guess, but nowadays we don’t have that technology.  And I don’t believe in scape-hogs.

These Little Pigs

[This photo of cute little piggies is lifted from www.swarkansasnews.com in appreciation for it coming from Nashville, a civilized town quite close to my childhood home in the woods where I had all my Neolithic dentistry done.  And in memory of my prize-winning shoat, a Poland China hog named Cornpone the Magnificent.  He earned me the title of 4-H County Champion Boy!]

Even without swine to drown the evil spirits, our demon-ridden humans are obviously, but obliviously, stampeding headlong over economic, ecological, and spiritual cliffs. Unfortunately, their suicide may well kill off virtuous humans too, not to mention other life-forms on earth.  Let’s hope at least the innocent pigs survive.  Their intelligent brains might eventually evolve into sentience, and one might even boldly go where no pig has gone before!

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The Stuff of Dreams

I’ve just finished reading Ursula Le Guin’s 1971 novel “The Lathe of Heaven” for the first time. Way back then/when, I read “The Left Hand of Darkness” but can’t remember a thing about it—so I’ll definitely have to grab that one again.  In LofH, she blew me away with the prescience of her sci-fi details of over-population, climate change, and the quality of life which are now so much a part of modern life.  It’s unfortunate that some of them (like kicking the automobile addiction), haven’t yet come true.  But I’m glad that she wasn’t sadistic enough to envision the smart-phone!  At least the people in her future world(s) were still human…

The novel’s theme of dreaming was a genius twist on the subject: a guy has “effective” dreams that affect objective reality.  Not to spoil a great story, I won’t say any more about that, but it put me in mind of the concept of “conscious dreaming,” which some decades ago was a big new-age thing.  Maybe it still is?

One of the themes in the Don Juan novels of Carlos Castañeda, the notion fascinated me. In about 1985, a “dream analyst” friend explained that the best method for achieving consciousness in a dream was to look at one’s hands and actually see them.  That sounded simple enough.

In a vivid dream about walking down a path to a beach (I was an inveterate, if infrequent, beach bum), the friend’s instruction came into my dreaming mind. I stopped on the sand and looked at my hands.  They were in the minutest detail my real hands, all the wrinkles on my knuckles and nails exactly like they were that day, including the longer nails on my pinkies.  And there on the third finger of my right hand was my gold ring with its slab of lapis lazuli—with the exact tiny streak of gold in the stone.  Then I knew that I was conscious.  Not awake, but conscious.

The problem was that as I looked at my real hands, the gold and lapis of my ring began to spread like an incrustation across my fingers. Consciously, I thought, “Oh, no, you don’t!”  With an effort of will, I forced the precious stuff back into the ring.  Confident now in my control of the dream, I looked around the beach at the expanse of sand and the undulant waves.

Dream of a Beach

I bent down and picked up some sand, letting it run quite realistically through my very real fingers. Then I decided I wanted to find a beautiful shell, and I walked along the frothy wave-lines on the beach feeling the utter reality of the scene.  Quickly I found a perfect small conch-like shell, and holding it in my right hand, I admired its whorl, as beautiful as any I’d ever seen.

In my throes of admiration, suddenly the shell started spreading over my hand, covering it with gleaming mother-of-pearl. I tried to command the transformation to stop but couldn’t manage.  The vision was utterly enthralling and joyous, and like happens with the approach of sexual climax, I could do nothing but abandon myself to the ecstasy of the dream.

I can’t remember where the dream went from there. But those moments of consciousness seized in the midst of it have remained vivid all these years since.  I’m not sure why I haven’t tried that trick again.  Maybe because it’s never crossed my dreaming mind to look at my hands again?

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Aztec Deities At It Again!

Announcement:

YE GODS! Icons of Aztec Deities

October 22 – November 16, 2018

NICK SALAZAR CENTER FOR THE ARTS

Northern New Mexico College

The Nick Salazar Center for the Arts in Española, New Mexico, presents an exhibition by local artist Richard Balthazar, who was formerly the Used Plant Man (or Iris Man) at the Santa Fe Farmers Market and once upon a time sold plants at the Española Farmers Market. Presented in large-scale format on vinyl banners, his 15 black and white drawings are designed for a coloring book, and prints for coloring and/or framing are available for free download from his website:

www.richardbalthazar.com.

Ehecatl, Aztec God of the Wind

The icons were drawn digitally (using a computer graphics program), allowing the artist to achieve a rare level of fine detail. The deities are so striking and startling that everyone will surely exclaim, “YE GODS!

Essentially a crash course in Aztec myth, history, and culture, the deities are portrayed in their full contexts, in authentic Aztec iconography.

Each deity is accompanied by a description and images from the surviving Aztec codices (picture-books) that served as models or themes and show the authentic colors used by Aztec scribes.

Cultural and educational groups are cordially invited to contact Mr. Balthazar to arrange for tours of the exhibit and gallery talks on the mythology and history of the images.

For more information or tour arrangements, contact Richard Balthazar at rbalthazar@msn.com.

 

Souvenirs of Logan Circle

On reading my most recent blog about gay life in Washington DC in the Neolithic (the 1970’s) in our faerie castle the Four Belles (1320 Rhode Island Ave NW), a friend suggested that I write more about the Centennial chandelier. I’m happy to do so, but actually I want to write more in general about memories of Logan Circle and my salvage activities.

(At that time, DC was in the throes of urban renewal and tearing down entire blocks of abandoned Victorian houses. Our most urgent battle around Logan Circle was to keep that from happening to the mansions and apartment buildings there.)

Four Belles carving and 1 & 2 Logan Circle

The photo on the left is a close-up of the carving of four hands with bells from which we took the name of our house. In fact, I found out several years ago from the current owner that the original builder had indeed named it the Four Belles—for his wife and three daughters.  The Second Empire wedding cake house on the right was owned by Lewis Kleiman, the guy who took my publicity shot mentioned before.  I occasionally helped him work on restoring the place, like stripping woodwork and such—but it was like spitting in the sea.

Copper Peak, 1320 RI Ave NW

Lewis also helped me in my salvaging. Early one morning we went in my old blue van (Lavenia Van Dodge) to a ruinous house on Sixth Street and rescued its copper peak to put on the Four Belles.  To get to it, we had to climb the bannister of the collapsed staircase and scramble through a rotten hole in the roof!  The peak is 4 or 5 ft. tall and maybe 6 ft. across the base.

 

 

 

But to return to that Centennial chandelier: As remarked before, it was a gift from France along with the Statue of Liberty.  My housemate Charles, being a historic preservation bigwig, got inside on the renovation of an area in Independence Hall where the Centennial chandelier had been hung and nabbed it for our castle.

Victorian Elegance at the Four Belles

In the photo, the huge Eastlake mirror behind the chandelier was rescued from a doomed house on M Street, along with two fabulous mantles and another mirror in black lacquer. When found, it and its beveled glass had been painted white! It now lives in the Library at Santa Fe’s posh inn and spa at La Posada. So I can occasionally visit my old friend.

In the middle is one of the Baccarat prisms (about 18 in. long) hanging on my porch.  On the right is a lamp (purchased in an antique shop), which is also here in my apartment.  By the French sculptor Auguste Moreau, it sat on the newel post of the tiger-eye oak staircase in our grand reception hall.  A few shadows of the Victorian elegance of the Four Belles.

And to return to my salvage activities: Another piece I still have is a trunk I found in 1974 on like the sixth floor of the wracked-out Iowa building also previously mentioned.  I had to remove its shredded canvas covering and live with the raw wood, but after all these decades, it still holds my blankets and linens.  Like that beautiful building, it has survived!

Trunk Found in the Iowa, 1974

There are naturally many stories to be told about salvaging, but I’ll only impose on you with a few. The first was an adventure of saving a plaster ceiling medallion like the one shown below, though I recalling it being a bit more ornate, if you can imagine that:

Victorian Ceiling Medallion

The derelict house was just a few doors down M Street from the one with the mirrors and mantles. I hauled my ladder into its crumbling dining room and proceeded to the cautious work of removing the ceiling medallion.  In the middle of the job, the entire ceiling of plaster and lathe let go of the joists.  There I was standing at the top of the ladder like Atlas holding up a very heavy sky!  With extreme trepidation and caution I tilted the slab to rest one edge on the floor, and with the other side propped on the ladder, I climbed down.  Then it was a fairly simple job to remove the prize and haul it away in trusty old Lavenia Van Dodge.

After untold hours of cleaning and restoration, I gave the medallion to one of the new urban pioneer neighbors around the Circle. Can’t recall who…  That’s what I did with the mantles, fancy woodwork, and such that I salvaged as welcome-wagon gifts.

A major salvage accomplishment was getting into a gorgeous Greek Revival building at, I believe, 12th and O (former home of DC’s black Masonic Lodge), the day before it came down.  They’d abandoned their library, and my friends and I loaded it out of the back window into Lavenia.  In the horde I found among other fascinating volumes a huge tome called “Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley” by Squier and Davis, which led to my 1992 book “Remember Native America.”  (I’d just seen the old public library on Maryland Avenue get knocked down with all the books still in it!)

And one more anecdote: After salvaging some mantles and sets of fabulous glazed tiles from the fireplace surrounds from another house, I went to a dinner party with the family of a lady friend in Alexandria.  Her aged grandmother was our hostess and was fascinated to hear about all my salvaging activity.  When I mentioned the address of that day’s rescues, the grandmother almost had a cardiac:  It was the house where she’d been a little girl, and the room with the green tiles had been her bedroom.  I came back the next day and gave her one of them as a souvenir.

Victorian Glazed Tile from Fireplace Surround

Later, in 1982, I installed several of the tiles around the kitchen sink in my next Victorian, a little Queen Anne in Denver, with this one left over.

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Neolithic Gay History

Some months ago I started reading a book by Jim Downs called “STAND BY ME, The Forgotten History of Gay Liberation,” Basic Books, 2016. I was touched that a guy probably born around 1980 found it important in 2005 to research gay history from the 1970’s—and was amused that he considered that decade “ancient” gay history.

Of course, I’m even older than ancient, having come out for the first time in the Stone Age (1961). I wrote about that period in my second novel, DIVINE DEBAUCH. When I came out for the second time in 1970, which is the subject of my second memoir (in progress), it was essentially the Neolithic epoch.  The 1980’s were actually our “ancient” history.

Now that I’ve finished the book, I have to say that for me the 1970’s were hardly as wild, sordid, intellectual, political, or stylish as what the author described, largely in New York, Toronto, and San Francisco. In Washington DC where I lived, things were almost conventionally civilized.  Since Downs wrote, “I wanted to show how the 1970s was more than a night in a bathhouse,” I really hoped he would describe the kind of gay culture and community that I experienced.

He didn’t. Not a word.  But then I suppose that’s because there was no documentation of our liberated lifestyle in newspapers or magazines.  To make up for that deficiency, I’ll point out the rather detailed outline of those years in this site’s Life section (Courtesan). It’s going to be the basis for my planned third memoir, which I’m now thinking of as “The Faerie Castle.”

That memoir will center on a splendid Victorian house at Logan Circle:

Logan Circle in the 21st Century

In this picture, the little red arrow indicates where the house sits at 1320 Rhode Island Ave NW. When I lived in it in the 1970’s there were many fewer and smaller trees. We called the house the Four Belles for the stone carving of four hands ringing bells over the front door—and for us several gay belles who lived there.  In our time, the corner with 14th Street was the epicenter of the slum, but nowadays it’s turned into the epicenter of the chic area of upscale shops and fancy restaurants. Sic transit gloria!

1320 Rhode Island Avenue NW and the Centennial chandelier

In the photo there’s a copper ball on the peak of the roof which I salvaged from a house the city tore down on 6th Street for “urban renewal.”  The drawing (by famous architectural artist Robert Miles Parker), was done before I snagged that detail.  My friends and I lived there in splendor, as shown by our chandelier in the dining room—which was Baccarat crystal and came from Independence Hall in Philadelphia, a Centennial gift to the US from France (along with the Statue of Liberty)!  I still have two of the crystal prisms hanging on my porch here in Santa Fe.

The Four Belles was an almost infamous center of DC’s gay society in that decade. Virtually daily we held sumptuous dinners in our grand dining room with perhaps a dozen guests and frequently hosted parties and costume balls.  Gay people of all artistic, political, and social persuasions passed through our “salon.”  A few years ago I ran into a fellow who well recalled having gone to a spectacular dinner party there.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember him…

My best friend and “sister” from the early 60’s at Tulane, Charles Herrington, was the true Queen in our faerie castle who presided over the banquets and salons. A major official with the National Register of Historic Places and an incomparable raconteur, Charles was a force of nature who attracted crowds of gay men into our circle (and bedded many of them).

Charles Herrington, 1976

Meanwhile, I was a sluttish Princess, or courtesan if you will, entertaining admirers in my sky-lit jungle suite on the third floor. Apart from such romantic activities, I also worked in an opera organization, salvaged architectural details from doomed Victorian houses, and was very active in the Circle’s community association. In the latter respect, I’m most proud of having saved a beautiful beaux artes apartment building, the Iowa, from the wrecking ball.

The Iowa, designed by T. F. Schneider

My other major accomplishment was translating Tchaikovsky’s opera “Maid of Orleans” for the Canadian Opera Company to sing in English. (See:  Another rather large whoop.)  A neighbor from the big white house on the Circle, Lewis Kleiman, took my press photo for that occasion:

poster art for Canadian’s “Joan of Arc” and translator Richard Balthazar

But to return to my courtesan activities, besides a parade of short-term suitors, I entertained a series of long-time admirers, most of whom were married or otherwise partnered. I was quite comfortable with always being “the other woman.”  There was the Panamanian mulatto Giovanni Gonzales (who had both a lover and a wife); the Vietnamese soldier and war hero Lai Minh Chi (who left me to marry a woman); the Arts Endowment official Jim Ireland (whose friendly lover apparently never suspected); and the museum administrator Guy McElroy (whose lover probably knew all about me).

Guy McElroy, 1979

As an epilogue to this tale of gay life in the Neolithic, for all I know, Giovanni and Chi may still be alive in DC. But I lost contact with Jim, who went “into the field” to work with opera companies and recently deceased.  While visiting me in New Mexico in 1985, Guy had an auto accident which paralyzed him; in that condition, he curated a show at the now-defunct Corcoran Gallery and then passed away.  In 1979, on the other hand, my alter-ego Charles lost his magnificent mind (went manic-depressive in that era of unmanageable lithium), and brought the fabulous world of the Four Belles to an end; after many years of suffering, he succumbed to AIDS in 1992.  And I’m now an unbelievably old man in comfortable retirement in Santa Fe.

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