When I say I’m Richard Balthazar, folks usually ask what kind of name that is. With some pedantic glee I explain that it’s apparently old Indo-Iranian for ‘priest of Baal.’ That’s Ba-El, the Lord God, main deity of Babylon, who was demonized by adherents of Yahweh, the megalomaniac minor deity of a tribe of nomadic herdsmen. But I’m mostly of French extraction.
This impressive title appears in the Bible as the name of the third King at the Nativity, the black one prophetically bringing the myrrh for the dead man, and from there the name spread all over Christian Europe. Balthazar or Balthasar is most common in northern and central Europe and Greece, but there’s Baldassare in Italian, Baltazar or Baltasar in Spanish, and Baal knows what other variations and corruptions.
My paternal line has been traced a long way back as Balthazar, to the early 1600s in France, through the 1700s in Montreal, and into the 1800s in the west of Canada (as voyageurs?). Out there in the wilderness, it became Balthazor (and even worse) for a few illiterate generations, and my father Raymond was born in rural Wisconsin in 1916. All through its 17th, 18th and 19th Century generations, we think the family often cross-bred with Native American wives, as the French were wont to do. My maternal line (Trinité) came early in the late 19th Century from somewhere around Marseilles with my young grandfather George to Baltimore, where my mother Yvonne was born in 1919.
Then in the spring of 1942, also in Baltimore, I suddenly appeared in this earthly realm.
By the way, when I was a child, my father looked just like Humphrey Bogart, though later in his short life he bore a strong resemblance to Jawaharlal Nehru. In my early years, my mother was a double for Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (as I knew even then from my stamp collection), but over her long life (94), her beauty became uniquely her own.
They say that over seven years each and every cell in the body gets replaced, which sounds to me like literal reincarnation. I believe that the unphysical or if you will, metaphysical ‘me’—the Meta-me—has persisted intact through each seven-year transubstantiation. In another way, perhaps spiritually and probably as a result of my long fixation on things Aztec, I calculate that my life has gone through cycles of 13 years: 0 to 13 to 26 to 39 to 52 to 65 to 78. That’s only six cycles, but right now in 2020, I’m in the last year of my 70s and entering the seventh cycle. An auspicious number…
Each of my personas in either the 7- or 13-year cycles has been inordinately, undeservedly, and/or oddly blest in life. Some blessings have even been unmixed, and all are appreciated hugely.
In all our personas we’ve been gay and probably concomitantly, eccentric. (Don’t worry, that’s the chronological rather than the schizophrenic ‘we.’) Also, like my circumcision, I was baptized a Catholic without my consent, but several injections of dead dogma as a youth were effective immunization. Living up to our portentous name, we became a life-long and devout Nondenominationalist.