Friday, June 8, 2018

Joseph Pintauro


This little green bug was recently clambering about on one of our roses, but when I got out the camera to take a picture he was clearly intimidated. He scooched backwards to hide between the petals, as if they were blankets. I wonder if he was hunting that little aphid in the foreground?

I read yesterday that Joseph Pintauro died. He was a poet, novelist and playwright who touched my life in several ways. I've written already about the groovy books of art and poetry that he co-wrote in the late 1960s and that I still treasure. He also wrote numerous plays, including one that I saw when I lived in New York -- and apparently I even met Pintauro that evening, although I wouldn't have remembered it if I hadn't written it on my blog. (My mind is going, I swear.)

I most associate him with the period when I was coming out in the mid-'80s. I used to go to Washington, D.C. every year with my family to visit my grandmother and other relatives, and on those trips, when I was 19 or 20, I would travel into the city alone on the Metro for a day of exploration. I'd tell my family I was going to the Smithsonian, and maybe I did -- but I also went to Lambda Rising, a famous gay book store on DuPont Circle, where I would buy a novel. I remember doing this twice -- once it was John Fox's "The Boys on the Rock," and once it was Pintauro's "Cold Hands." I'd sit for hours on the Metro, riding around Washington and its suburbs, reading my gay book. And then I'd return to my family with an at least partly fictional account of seeing the Air and Space Museum for the fiftieth time.

In those days, if there were gay bookstores where I lived in Florida, I wasn't knowledgeable or courageous enough to visit them. (I'm talking about real bookstores that sold literature, not porn vendors using a euphemistic name.) Somehow, in the anonymity of the big city, I could explore that aspect of my being, if only through reading.

I loved "The Boys on the Rock" -- in fact, I still have my copy -- but I was less enthusiastic about "Cold Hands." It had something to do with two Italian-American cousins and their exotic Mame-like aunt, who was named Zia Fantasia, if I'm not mistaken. Still, I will always be indebted to Pintauro for writing one of the books that occupied my attention on the Metro in those days when I was coming to terms with my identity as a gay man -- not to mention his colorful books of hippie poetry.

9 comments:

Yorkshire Pudding said...

At first I thought the spider was called Joseph Pintauro but that would be a silly name for a spider. A spider's name should always begin with an "S" - Simon, Stacey, Sigourney or Steve for example.

Vivian Swift said...

I like Mr. Pudding's Rules For Spiders.

Your Washington D.C. ventures sound very brave for a teenager and I hope it is a sweet memory for you, or at least not worse than bittersweet. I think we are all lost souls at that age, but there you were, finding yourself on the Metro of all places.

I enjoyed your archive posts, especially the one about how hard it used to be to buy books. I have not thought of "book finders" for ages, but I do remember them. Also, the New York Review of Books magazine always printed letters from readers, appealing for help in remembering the name of some half-forgotten poem. The readers would send in the snippet they could recall -- a line or two -- and ask if anyone could recognize where it came from. These days, all you have to do is Google it.

Joseph Pintauro sounds like a very interesting fellow. I had not heard of him, but his obit portrayed him as someone who had quite a journey of self-discovery on his way to becoming an artist. It's hard to believe that you could forget meeting him, but then, I read in my diary that I once stood in line at JFK airport right behind Muhammed Ali in the 1990s, something that I have absolutely no recollection of.

Ms. Moon said...

I don't think I've ever even heard of Joseph Pintauro. If I have, I've forgotten.
I'm glad his books were there when you most needed them.

robin andrea said...

I don't think I've ever heard of Joseph Pintauro either. Makes me wonder about all the authors that slipped by me in the 80s when I was a late-bloomer in grad school. I'm glad you found authors and bookstores when you needed them. Beautiful photo!

ellen abbott said...

never heard of him either but that's not surprising. interesting though about your travels into the city learning, coming to terms with who you are.

Sharon Anck said...

From time to time, my best friend David will tell me similar stories about seeking out places where he could be himself when he was a teenager. He has used that same term of "coming to terms" with who he is. I always tell him that "who he is, is pretty great". I'd say the same to you!

37paddington said...

It makes my heart tender to think of you, reading your gay book on the Metro for hours. I am glad Joseph Pintauro was there for you.

jenny_o said...

Imagine what it would be like to be a bug in a world of very large people. It's clear that some of them, at least, can see us to avoid us. So what must they think of us?

The poignancy of your reading while away from your home city is sobering and touching. A book can take a person right back.

Linda Sue said...

Sweet little shiny bug tucked in. so rewarding to find books of comfort when needed. It can be so lonely and frightening out there! So glad that you found real comfort in your real life, too! Except for that damned tooth thing...Your life is a big thumbs up success, good so far and a well done kudos to you!