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JOHN WATERS, PRIDE, AND LILI

“If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t f_ _k ‘em.”

John Waters

That John Waters sentence is on tee-shirts, tote-bags, mugs and magnets sold at the Strand Bookstore, where I’ll be offering a writing workshop August 22. According to the Strand cashier, who rang up the books I just bought, the merchandise with Waters’ sentence sells well.

Waters, a bibliophile, an openly gay man, and an avid supporter of gay rights and gay pride has given us a whole lot more than ‘Hairspray.’ He’s been in my thoughts. I thought about him June 24, as I watched the Gay Pride Parade go up, not down Fifth Avenue, a stone’s throw from my apartment. Pride in full regalia and in all forms: gay, human, and family is particularly moving nowadays.

According to Waters’ Wikipedia, he was heavily influenced by the 1953 movie, ‘Lili.’ Mel Ferrer, the carnival puppeteer, used 4 puppets to talk to Leslie Caron’s Lili. I saw the movie four times opening week: with my parents, my grandmother, and two shows in a row with just my father on a Saturday afternoon. I was 6. And in love with that movie. I plan to write to Waters at Atomic Books, an independent bookstore, in Baltimore. He gets his fan mail delivered there.

Baltimore, Waters’ hometown, is where he still mainly resides and where his films are set.

There’s the flasher who lives next door. There’s the drunk on the barroom stool. They wish me luck on my way to school.

There’s Passager Books, my ‘Finding Mr. Rightstein’ publisher at the University of Baltimore. Anne Tyler lives in Baltimore. Her 22nd novel, ‘Clock Dance’—set there, as are her others-- comes out July 11.

Mostly, I’m thinking about the Waters’ quote about homes without books. And the below quote that was over the corn and peas at Laube’s Cafeteria in Buffalo where, as a child, I regularly ate with my parents and sister.

We may live without friends, we may live without books,

But civilized men cannot live without cooks.

I thought they had it all wrong up there and that ‘books’ and ‘cooks’ should be interchanged. Except for her brisket, much of what my mother made had too much paprika or was overcooked. My father didn’t cook. He read.

I cook a little. My husband cooks a little less.

We live with books. My family of origin lived with books. My bloodline lives with books. I am proud of that. I can’t imagine it any other way.

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