Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Gilbert Dalton

Yes, a name for a title means death. Like "Daniel Schorr."

Gilbert died last September at 77, and because I have no more relatives living in Lincoln, IL, I just found out about it by searching his name. I'd lost contact with him over the years.

Gilbert worked for Western Union all his life, often sitting in tiny gyms, telegraphing the action in Illinois high school basketball games to newspapers around the state. A vanished time.

Gil was also the first hillbilly homo I ever met. My mother, being something of a fag hag, tended to have parties with lots of gay folks. Among others, there was the touring company actor with the bad hair plugs ("Les Miserables" was his greatest success); the flower and party arranger guy with the cruddy toupee; the priest who was in love with my father--and Gil, the hillbilly homo.

Gil grew up in Creal Springs, IL, way down near Shawnee National Forest. It's about as close to the Ozarks as you can get in Illinois.

None of the urbane homos in town liked Gil. He was tiny, he was loud, he was a drunk, he had a southern accent, and he cried all the time. Not good for the brand, as it were.

But he was my friend. When I was a late teenager I'd end up over at his place, usually on Sunday afternoons, where we'd drink beer, maybe barbeque, smoke cigs, watch Julia Child and listen to Ain't Misbehavin', his all-time fave album, sometimes all at the same time.

Occasionally he'd try to ravish me, but never in a boorish way. All it ever took was a polite thanks, but no thanks, and he'd quit.

Long after he retired Gil moved back to Creal Springs. I visited him there once, maybe on the way to a backpacking trip or something. Most of the people in town were his relatives, one way or another. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, half-cousins, cousins of cousins--and all of them crackers.

They loved him to death. In fact, Gil was sort of the matriarch of the clan. Might have had something to do with the fact that he was the only person in town to have ever held a job.

I keed, but only a little.

Gil also did a pretty good Julia Child impression: "Oh no! I've splashed clarified butter on my face! Well, let's just empty the blisters into the pot, shall we?"


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