‘Dirt Always Wins’ (Part Six) — Conclusion

Another Country by JamesBaldwin

This would normally be where a guy like me concludes by showing how I resolved my dirt issues, or at least negotiated a balance between cleaning and living free. But that would be a kind of cleaning up, wouldn’t it. At the same time, because pornography has entered the building, the dirty-string gatherer is tempted to state that he can literally visualize dark-blue passages in his introduction to printed dirt: James Baldwin’s  Another Country, which was passed around in high school till it disappeared. Don’t believe me? “Did he fuck … [Read more...]

‘Dirt Always Wins’ (Part Four) — Master of Alconox

Gilbert chemistry set

When, for his ninth or tenth birthday, my spouse received a Gilbert chemistry set, all he wanted to do, he told me, was to make perfume and explosives. I had begged my parents for the same gift, probably for similar reasons, but a cheap plastic microscope must have “fallen off the truck,” because that’s what I got instead. What a whiny child I must have been. Quickly amoeba-centered and science-tracked, I was given the opportunity to work with a scientist at what was then called the Rockefeller Institute, in Manhattan, before leaving high … [Read more...]

‘Dirt Always Wins’ (Part Three) — The White Goddess

Clorox "Butch"

  No good will be served if I demonize my mother and claim that she was responsible for who I am, dirtwise. But almost everything I know about cleaning clothes and floors and toilets I learned from her. Since I was 6, I measured laundry powder, ironed shirts, polished mirrors and even memorized cleaning-supply jingles on TV because they were sung in a code that it was up to me to break. Mom told her friends that she was training me because she thought boys should be self-reliant, but it was actually because she wanted help in the house, … [Read more...]

“Dirt Always Wins” — A Story, Part Two

'30s girl injecting insulin

Sterile Technique There’s a curiously moving photo in a 1930s medical handbook put out by Dr. Elliott P. Joslin, who started a clinic in Boston that still specializes in treating diabetics. It shows a sweet Shirley Temple clone, almost 3 years old, the caption says, sitting on a wooden table and injecting her doll-like thigh with a needle and syringe that contains a dose of insulin. (A darling voice muffles an “ouch!”) She’s just a baby, yet she’s her own life-saving nurse. I became diabetic at 7 and almost died because the family doctor … [Read more...]

“Dirt Always Wins” — A Story in Six Parts

Stain wheel

One: Stains     Have you ever seen a stain wheel? It’s a practical novelty, die-cut layers of glossy printed cardboard that you’d have found in an old five-and-dime. Is something you love spotted or blotched? Merely turn the wheel to your problem: egg, gum, alcoholic beverages, axle grease, urine, mustard, glue, mildew, flowers, and the step-by-step stain solution, as it were, appears in a window. Similar wheels were made long ago for bashful young men who needed help in coordinating the colors of their suits, shirts and ties -- before they … [Read more...]