When I say I’m Richard Balthazar, folks usually ask what kind of name that is. It’s not without a little glee that I explain that it’s apparently old Indo-Iranian for ‘priest of Baal.’ That’s Ba-El, the Lord God, main deity of Babylon, demonized by adherents of Yahweh, that megalomaniac minor deity of a tribe of nomadic herdsmen. But I’m of mainly French extraction.
This title appears in the Bible as the name of the third King at the Nativity of the Christ Child, and from there it spread all over Christian Europe in most languages. 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 a start in the 1600’s in France, through the 1700’s in Montreal, and into the 1800’s in the west of Canada (as voyageurs?). Out there in the wilderness, it became Balthazor for a few (probably illiterate) generations, and my father Raymond was born in Wisconsin in 1916. All through its 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 20th 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.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF A LONG LIFE
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. But on a somewhat different schedule, the Meta-me has transformed—okay, metamorphosed—into new personas.
First, let me humbly acknowledge that each of our many personas has been inordinately, undeservedly, and/or oddly blessed in life, some blessings even unmixed, but all are appreciated hugely. (My worldly-wise epigram: Rare the one who gets his just desserts.)
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. We became a life-long and devout Non-denominationalist.