Lords: Part One
I don't know how long this excerpt of chapter one in its entirety will be online. I've decided to defy the powers that be and upload a sneak peek so that you can see for yourselves before the book hits the shelves. We'll all see what my lawyer has to say about this!
Lords: Part One consists of thirty-seven chapters. It's fiction, based on research, interviews, newspaper articles, and so forth of a story that Robert Price of the Bakersfield Californian brought to our attention. He's the man who gets the true recognition for a job well done. My story is just a fictitious rendering of what is perhaps a much darker past. It's a benefit that I have history degrees and spent so much time in the history grad department at CSUB under good folks like John Arthur Maynard and Oliver Rink. They didn't teach me so much about novels, but about the past and how to constructand dig for it (even if I did twist such ideas to help fabricate narratives). Such skill helps me to construct a past that may seem real, but really, is it?And not to forget the ghost of Colonel Jack. One cannot forget his input into this manuscript. He is the mentor who will never be forgotten. I apologize beforeheand for the horrid formatting...
By N.L. Belardes
The Coming of The Remittance Men—1889
In the rugged farmlands of the Southern San Joaquin Valley, the name Rosedale arises as a suitable town name to attract British colonizers. There are no roses in this area a few miles west of Bakersfield. It is a name meant only to glorify the supposed culture of a British Eden.
In response to colorful advertising efforts of the Kern County Land Company, England sends a colony of noble scions. It was to be a utopian paradise of water-filled, lush landscapes tended by fruit growers and jam-makers, with hopes of peaches, plums, grapes, apricots and jams and jellies aplenty.
Among the colonizers are a group of young noble-standing men harboring alternate lifestyles. They are the first Lords of the Southern Valley. Paid to leave England and stay away for fear of disgracing their own family names, they become known locally as ‘The Remittance Men’. They are the flamboyant, the scoundrels, the queers, the secret lovers of Rosedale and Bakersfield society. They have queer meetings, queer minstrel shows at jam factories where they sing ‘Little Tin Geegee’, and they entertain in extravagant fashion at the old Southern Hotel. They have queer birthday parties, and they drink and drink champagne and even pour their bubbly drinks down horses’ throats.
One young man arrives in Rosedale at age 17. He is frail and hopeless, but works as a vine planter, an irrigation-ditch digger, a cowpuncher and a California homesteader. He becomes an intellectual, a writer. He later wins the Nobel Peace Prize. He becomes a prominent white man of culture and wit, but never marries.
Rosedale has a distaste for farming. The jam factories close. There are floods and drought. The colony fails as the minstrels continue to sing. It was to be a Garden of Eden…
The White Orchid Society—1930s-1960s
Though the Remittance Men have faded away, the Lords of the Southern Valley have not. An area rich in agriculture and oil, Bakersfield has also become the ivy covered secret of Hollywood’s backyard. The flamboyant come to film dozens of movies in the nearby deserts and river valleys; they also come to hide, and to live in decadence along with some of the wealthy and prominent of California’s Southern heartland. In this society some have forged a secret, and in doing so, blossom in forbidden lusts and longings for young men. Now, instead of the young men being Lords by title, the young become the pawns of the White Orchids: a group of local businessmen, academics, journalists, and flamboyant Hollywoodsters, who in their lordly dance for decadence, terrorize the hearts of young boys.
The Lords of the Southern Valley—1977
The White Orchids of the Depression and War Years have gone. But new Lords have arisen…
1. As the movie twinkled towards its starry end, Karvac giggled. That spaceship for a moment hovered beneath its mother—her lights blinking—and the cacophonous booming of her extraterrestrial horns cast echoes across the constellations; and then it flew in an arc and straight up into her gargantuan Lite Brite cosmic underside. “Right up her ass!” Karvac snickered as he watched her straddle Devil’s Tower. He wondered how she could possibly rumble so surely over the American wastelands with all those little ships lit like fireflies and buzzing in semi-circles, zigzags, and spirals in her cavernous loins. Her unknown zoomship machinery had come home to Earth’s eroded man-filled lands only to blast away almost as soon as she arrived: to take home some of what was hers, along with the aliens who infested her. Those naked little children of the stars had exposed themselves only long enough to take a victim. And that lonesome parasite wasn’t even an astronaut, cosmonaut, or juggernaut with the bones of Krishna soaring into her guts. It wasn’t ‘meant to be’, or so it seemed, or was it? This astro-guy was some Joe who had just climbed his own perverted mountain. And now as a consequence of his alien-ship-burned skin, his face fragile and baby-like, and his passion for encounters of a certain kind—he had done it for humanity, he the lone star at the pinnacle of the UFO-obsessed, staring now at a sea of technology and broken hearts, because that damn alien mother wasn’t going to stay for supper at all, and then poof! her and that nearly-swarming egg sack all disappeared into the unknown, leaving the government to masturbate and ponder over immense cargo ships filled with data-tapes of the whole dreaded encounter.
Just afterwards Karvac pushed his own Joe, Joey Minstrel, to wish upon his own star. Minstrel thought about it, but was quiet as they made their way into another area of Hollywood where stars don’t glitter in the heavens, but are flattened suns, having fallen like crunchy maple leafs, dropped onto the Boulevard from a great tree of withered stars. Although neither one of them was over the age of thirteen, they both stooped like old men, bent over the five points of Cary Grant. “Who the hell is he?” Minstrel yelped.
“Don’t worry about that. These are the forgotten actors of Hollywood. That’s why they have stars on this street, so the bums, misfits and rejects can piss on ‘em.”
Minstrel thought about the movie they’d just seen. It had been playing in theatres for a few months now. He watched Karvac put his cigarette out on the name ‘Grant’ as if Karvac were right: that’s what those stars were for because stars fell out of the sky, or out of the Studios, never to make pictures again, but could have their names on sidewalk stars for people to wipe their feet on. “Have your own close encounter,” Karvac laughed. He guffawed the way he always did with his eyes squint nearly shut and his teeth bare. “Go sing to them the way the mothership does. You won’t even have to go find them. They’ll come to you.” They had walked out of the theatre, and now sauntered down the Boulevard arm-in-arm, eager for the long night ahead. It had already been a long day. They survived the movie only because of the steady supply of uppers Karvac always seemed to carry. They had popped them just as Dreyfus put his finishing touches on that monstrous sculpture jutting from his living room carpet, an enlightened moment for Karvac and Minstrel, a sculptured moment worthy of such young visionaries.
That was six hours ago. The only reason they actually sat watching the movie in the first place was for the score that never showed. The score, Karvac said, was a producer “so packed full of cash, you could see the rolled up tip of a dollar bill coming out his ass.” They both were gonna take him on. “Sometimes it’s better in pairs. You get more of a cash flow that way. We never get tired. And he keeps forking over cash like he’s got a big fat bottomless wallet. And then we got cash for whatever we want. And what I want is nothing really, because I can get what I want from anyone anyways. I can take a shower. I can take a shirt, a nice shirt even. I can eat some grub. I can sit and listen to the stereo. There’s always a few minutes afterwards for some of that. You know what I mean? Except when you’re somewhere that ain’t home.”
“Oh I know what you mean,” Minstrel said. He knew he was just learning the ropes. There was a lot more Karvac wanted to teach the young manhunter. He still had some popcorn left. It was in a bag shoved in his Jean’s pocket. He took the bag out and dumped the remains, the equivalent of about one fat handful into his mouth. “I can’t wait til I’m old enough to drive and get a license. Then I’ll be getting cars off these fuckers, and not just cash.”
“You think you need a license? You better wake up. You just have to look a little older and drive the speed limit. But look at you, you look like a goddam baby, and that’s what they like. Hey, Minstrel, you don’t even have to do that if you end up in the right town. They will take care of you. They can take care of anything you do. It’s a free world. Anything is free for you when you’re with the right ones.”
“Except the score.”
“There’s a price.”
“That’s fucked up.”
“It should all be free whether you wanna score or not.”
“You want too much.”
“I do not.”
“Yeah, you expect too much. This is only Hollywood. This ain’t the sheik palace of Arabia, you piece of shit.”
Out in the big blue Hollywood sky, this was the place where Karvac said Minstrel could meet everyone: Hollywood Blvd. and Sunset and Melrose; these are the streets on fire; streets killing everyone on them; streets picking boys like Karvac up and body slamming them in gutters as if they have arms to do that, as if they’re the ones that wrap you in quick alley fits to pump you full of their money, their junk and everything else running straight into your veins. Those streets with the scores on them. Minstrel had already met three between the hours of eight and ten. He thought he was getting better with every one. They’ll get you back behind the clubs—those hunched over buildings stuck on the rolling streets near Tower Records, in the limos passing along Vine, bisecting the great Hollywood vein; in the producer’s office overlooking the Studios; in his house, in his daughter’s bed; in front of his closest friends—all of them pouring wine over their ecstasy moment; even his friends over the big hill, where Minstrel didn’t really know he was about to take his next car ride into the fog-filled valley that has no Sunset Strips, no Santa Monica Boulevards, just a few parks where he can score, or a bus station where every heavenly one of Karvac’s Central Valley Bakersfield buddies light it up, hoping for the big man to come rolling in to a near empty room, just them sitting in it, and the big man cutting loose and whispering with his soft lusty gloom-filled tongue dripping in their ears, “Boys I don’t want no trouble. I just want you.” Over in the bus station downtown, it was often Karvac and the rest of the boys, all cozy and pretending they don’t know each other at any time of the day: at lunch hour, at 2am, at eight o’clock bus hour I-gotta-get-to-El Paso blues, “‘Cause we all want that same wad, that same stash,” Karvac says. So they all go. But not tonight. Tonight it’s Minstrel’s night in Hollywood.
The big palms stretch over these Hollywood huts in the star speckled night. The huts of the Metropolis all shoved together in their little dark towns full of a million different languages, with little Tokyos, Israeli Zones, Oaxacans, Ethiopians, and punks of every type, all angry at the Southland, at America, at nothing in general but the big Hollywood sky. There line the Spanish-tiled huts, lonely tribesmen near the Arclight, they wander in to see a movie, and in the theatre, feel the decrepit hands of midnight, those same hands Minstrel felt at the Rialto the night before—he scored again, all soft around the pudgy fingers, the hard nails on those hands digging in during the flick, this time Star Wars: Chewbacca humping that cowboy Han amongst the tumbleweed stars against the reality of Minstrel’s soft flesh. It’s all theatre business, right? It happens everywhere, especially for Minstrel, because he’s all over Hollywood now, just like Karvac told him to be, and is everywhere because he doesn’t have his own pad, just the pads under his feet, just the pads his feet take him to, just the pads under the feet that buy him, though it’s never enough, and there’s never enough time to sleep all day, but just enough for a quick nap, or not even that, because sometimes you have to run just to catch yourself and tell yourself you’re awake. Those Hollywoodsters—they don’t want anything but for a fleeting moment; that’s what bugs Karvac and Minstrel. They’re not like those Bakersfield hipsters, the Lords who would take Minstrel all night. Those Lords of the Southern Valley. They knew just where to look. Karvac was right. Stand out by the burger joint where the smell of fries billows into your nostrils, just enough to make you want to puke. Then again, who needs food when you have Coke waiting for you in the Bakersfield Bigtown cars. Maybe he would even be flying over the mountains right there in one of those cars. It was supposed to be his Hollywood night.
Minstrel had second thoughts. The thought of it made him shake, but he stopped himself because Karvac left him munching on his popcorn to wander somewhere else, and because as Minstrel stood there, waiting, just how he was told to wait, he saw a big fat caddie like the kind the Central California farmers’ wives drive that are so white and steely rimmed with white-walls that spin endlessly like a Chicano novella belting out to the TV masses of Mexico and Europe: “ay ay ay!” about some forever love affair gone haywire.
Minstrel didn’t want bodies pushing up against him as much as he wanted things: anything, material things really, but anything material that he could get his hands on and sell. That’s what life was all about: Getting a hold of someone’s back pocket so he could pick it, flip open a big fat wallet and take a little extra dough, just so he could pack his own mostly empty wallet. And not just that. He would take anything that he could sneak into his pockets: jewelry, watches, trinkets of every color and shape imaginable, keys, knives, forks, spoons, shoes, pets, stones, books—it didn’t matter. He once took a copy of Tolkien: Book One, read half of it, and cursed because he realized he was just Frodo being used by everyone, getting junked up on someone’s poison and staring at that big eye of Sauron who he knew was always watching over him, waiting to eat him up, he, Minstrel of the City Blues, buttfucker on fire, boy wonder always ready to sing the circle ring jerk to no one in particular, and ready now to skip Hollywood for a big town over the mountains that he knew was shrouded in clouds, with churches on every street corner, and justly covered over its sacred heart by the fog-shroud of Turin.
2008 nick belardes