Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Legend of Tarzan Brown


It was a hot, sticky late August day in 1975 and, like baseball fans throughout New England, my thoughts were on the unlimited potential of the Boston Red Sox and their pair of prized rookies, Jim Rice and Fred Lynn.

The Buckler-Johnston Funeral Home, in Westerly, R.I., was overflowing with Narragansett Indians – some in regalia – mingling with local members of the community and several serious-looking men in dark suits. Like the inside of the parlor, the parking lot out back and the sidewalk out front were crammed with people. There must have been more than 500 people at the funeral of my mother’s uncle, Ellison “Tarzan” Brown.

I knew Uncle Tarzan – or thought I did. I couldn’t recall seeing him sober, or without a wide smile. He was 61, with gray hair and furrowed brow, but he was a hero to the children of the tribe.

We were used to most adults ignoring us, unless we got too loud or rambunctious; but Uncle Tarzan always had time for the kids. He told jokes and tall tales, he paid attention to us.

One of the last times I saw him was the previous winter when we kids were playing outside of Aunt Myra Perry’s house in Charlestown, R.I., and Tarzan came walking down the dirt driveway. Our games broke off as we flocked around Uncle Tarzan.

“I was walking through the woods when I got hungry,” Tarzan told us. “I saw a deer, but all I had was a knife, so I had to chase him. I ran so fast, I went past him and had to wait for him to catch up!”

I always laughed at that story, never thinking there might be some truth in it.

I thought of that story on that August day of 1975 as I looked around at all the people. Even the governor had come! It seemed like a lot of people coming to pay respects to a storytelling old man who had been the hero of many a fine bottle.


“That Indian from Rhode Island …”


I listened to the stories people told, and I was amazed to realize that I had not known Uncle Tarzan, at all.

“He could be stubborn,” my grandmother Myra D. Brown once told me of her younger brother. “One time an old man in the neighborhood gave him a hard time, so Ellison waited behind a wall for him and shot the hat off of his head with a bow and arrow.”

It seemed that even as a young child, Tarzan was the stuff of legend.

He was born Ellison Myers Brown on Sept. 12, 1913, the fifth of eight children. His Narragansett name was Deerfoot, and he lived up to it at an early age. As young Ellison grew up there was another noted Narragansett runner, Horatio “Bunk” Stanton, who was well-regarded in local racing circles.

One day in 1926 Stanton was doing his training, running from Westerly to a ballfield in Shannock, some 20 miles distant. Arriving in Shannock, Stanton told his manager – Thomas “Tippy” Salimeno – about “some young kid” that had followed him all the way.

About 10 minutes later a 12-year-old boy jogged onto the ballfield. He told Salimeno his name was Ellison Brown. Salimeno told Brown to come back when he was 16 and he’d manage his career.

Tarzan dropped out of school to learn stone masonry beside his father, Otis Brown. Tarzan, like many Narragansett men, became an exceptional mason and much of his work still stands today.

In 1931, 16-year-old Tarzan returned; and Salimeno took the boy to The Arctic, an area around Warwick, R.I., where Tarzan handily topped the field in his first race, a 10-mile event.

Tarzan entered the arena at a time when foot racing was booming, and one of the more popular sports in America. In those days, three-time Boston Marathon victor Les Pawson once said, New England was “the long distance runner’s capital of the world.”

Tarzan won often – though winning wasn’t always his goal.

Former Boston Globe sports editor Jerry Nason once recalled how Tarzan would look over the prizes before a race and decide what place he wanted to finish in, based on what he would get. He wanted something he could sell to get money to support his family, Nason said.

If he could win a nice wristwatch or a radio, Tarzan would “run like crazy,” Nason recalled. And, if he could win two prizes, he “really let out!”

Pawson remembered the ending of one race when Tarzan was “fit to be tied”; Tarzan won and received a trophy while runner-up Pawson got a watch!

My aunt, Faith Burrell, said Tarzan – her uncle – got his famous nickname from his Johnny Weismuller imitation and from leaping from tree to tree faster than most people could run. She is sad when people fail to see his uniqueness.

“They used to say, he had million dollar legs and a 10-cent head,” Burrell said.

In 1933 Tarzan was finally ready to test his skills against the best long distance runners in the world, entering his first Boston Marathon.

Begun in 1897, the Boston Marathon is the oldest, continuous marathon in the world, and was once used as an qualifying race to select the U.S. Olympic marathoner.

Les Pawson set a course record in winning the 1933 Boston Marathon, and Tarzan finished a respectable 32nd. Three years later the talented runner would cross the line between talented athlete and legend.

Tarzan finished 13th in the 1935 Boston Marathon – running barefoot! There were numerous tales of Tarzan winning local races while barefoot. It wasn’t a gimmick; Tarzan was often short of money and couldn’t afford shoes!

My mother, Rosalind (Brown) Hopkins, Tarzan’s niece, once told me of arriving in Boston to cheer Tarzan on, only to discover he had no shoes. She bought him a pair before the race started, she said.

In 1936, Tarzan would take his place among the pantheon of Boston Marathon legends. The race started out innocently enough and the official press car, as usual, followed a group of runners thought to be leading the pack.

At the five-mile checkpoint an official timer asked the media representatives what they were doing. When they told him they were following the leaders, the timekeeper was shocked.

“That Indian from Rhode Island went through here five minutes ago!”

In fact Tarzan Brown had shattered the course record for the first five miles.


The Legend of Heartbreak Hill


He ran “like a bat out of hell,” Nason said.

The press car sped up and caught the Indian and for 21 miles he burned up the course record. But then he slowed his pace. Tarzan’s unorthodox racing style was to run as fast as he could, for as long as he could. The wild style would cause the local press to dub him “Chief Crazy Horse.”

Tarzan did not pace himself, saying later in life that his career ended before he ever knew how to run a race or even train properly.

He dreamed about his races before they were run and in his dreams he always lost, Tarzan said. That spurred him to run harder during the race.

He had built up a huge lead in 1936 and then slowed, jogging along head-down. He might have lost the race except for an ill-advised display of sportsmanship that turned the race into legend – and gave a name to the most treacherous hill along the course.

With his own furious run, Boston legend Johnny A. Kelley – the defending Boston Marathon champ – caught up with Tarzan at the foot of the hills that had defeated many a runner. Nason said that as he passed Tarzan, Kelley reached him and patted him on the butt “as if to say ‘nice run, pal’.”

Tarzan’s head came up, he had no idea anyone else was near him. The Indian lit out “as if someone had stuck a pin in his ass,” according to Nason. That hill was christened Heartbreak Hill.

The original Boston Marathon, called the “short course,” was 24 ½ miles, but the distance had been increased to its current 26 miles, 385 yards in 1926. Tarzan became the youngest to win the longer distance.


Tarzan and The Fuhrer


With his surprising victory in Boston, Tarzan Brown earned a spot on the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. He was going to Berlin, where Adolf Hitler hoped to prove the superiority of the Aryan race. But Jesse Owens smashed The Fuhrer’s dreams in record fashion – and Tarzan almost joined him.

Twenty-four years earlier another Indian, Jim Thorpe, won Olympic gold only to have it taken away. Tarzan’s gold was taken away before he could earn it. What happened in Berlin? That was one of the biggest mysteries in the legend of Tarzan Brown.

One story says that on the ship to Berlin he was imitating the awkward style of the British long distance walkers and pulled a muscle; another claimed that Tarzan had taken a hot bath before the race, thinking it would help him relax, and it tired him quicker. Jerry Nason believed Tarzan was bothered by a hernia – and Tarzan did suffer from a hernia later that year. Nason said Tarzan told him he stopped due to a tremendous pain in his gut.

My father, John A. Hopkins, Sr., had a startling story to tell. He told me that Tarzan told him years later that he had gotten into a fight with “some of Hitler’s brownshirts” and was thrown in jail, where he was warned he had better not win the marathon.

Tarzan was indeed arrested and bailed out in time to participate in the marathon, according to Nason.

Most of the reports about various injuries lose luster when the race itself is considered.

Tarzan – in his typical style – burst out in front, leading the Olympic field for the first 13 miles. At 18 miles he had slowed, but was still a close second.

Then he sat on the grass to catch his breath when a spectator approached him to see if he was alright; at that point one of the official’s cars came by and immediately disqualified Tarzan for receiving aid.

“I know in my heart I could have won that race,” Tarzan said later. But since he was disqualified, he didn’t bother t finish.


“Tarzan Brown ain’t no quitter!”


Tarzan ran the Olympic marathon as he had run other races. He typically raced out to huge leads and then took a rest before continuing on. Local Rhode Island legends abound about Tarzan stopping for a beer or resting until another runner appeared, before continuing on his way.

Though Salimeno tried to train his protégée, the truth was that no one ever told Tarzan Brown what to do. Forget Sinatra, it was Tarzan who did it his way.

His usual regimen consisted of drinking beer and chopping wood. Nason once said Tarzan trained in barrooms and had “some terrific brawls.”

And things did not get more serious on race day.

Tarzan would arrive the day of a race and eat half a dozen hot dogs, washed down by his favorite, orange soda, his nephew, Keith Brown said.

“You know Uncle Tarzan, he’d balance the hot dogs on his arm and wolf them down one after another; afraid somebody was going to take them away from him,” he laughed.

Tarzan returned to Rhode Island after the 1936 Olympics and the reckless champion, used to adulation, found himself the object of scorn. Critics emerged everywhere, disappointed that Tarzan gave up and quit the biggest race of his life.

Tarzan was a proud man and was determined to show the world that “Tarzan Brown ain’t no quitter!”

He did it in a fashion unequaled in world history, by winning two full-length marathons on consecutive days in 1936.

First he won the New York Championship at Portchester and then hitchhiked through the night to Manchester New Hampshire, where he arrived just before race time. There he drank orange soda pop for breakfast and then went out and won the race!

Five days later he collapsed with a double hernia.


The Greatest Long Distance Runner


Everyone was praising Tarzan now, from seven-time Boston Marathon winner Clarence DeMar to Olympic champion Paavo Nurmi, considered one of the greatest runners ever.

Nurmi, who also trained distance runners, said that the marathon was not Tarzan’s best event. He said Tarzan would have been unbeatable if he only ran 10-milers.

In fact, in shorter races, Tarzan often set course marks, and once – in an unsanctioned race – broke the world record time.

Now that he had shut his critics up, Tarzan decided to retire. It was only shortly before the 1937 Boston race that he changed his mind. He showed up without any preparation and finished 37th. But, in 1938, he didn’t even finish the race.

Nason remembered 1938 as being a steaming hot day, about halfway through the race the press car was watching the four leaders running close together.

“They were looking good, Tarzan looked the best,” Nason said.

Suddenly, unpredictable as ever, Tarzan veered from the course and leaped off a bridge into the lake below!

Tarzan went back to his winning ways, finishing first more often than not. Suddenly, in 1939, Tarzan began to take running seriously.

The year began in Cranston, R.I., when, in a 10-mile race, Tarzan’s time of 50:15 equaled the world record set by Nurmi. It was only the beginning.

Tarzan broke the record for the Syracuse, N.Y. Marathon and won both the 15- and 20-kilometer National Championships. Tarzan competed in 25 races in 1939, having the best time in 20 of them! Only three times did he fail to crack the top 10.

It was a chilly April day in Boston, with constant drizzle, and nothing indicated it would be a memorial race. But Tarzan Brown had come to Boston again – and this time he had actually trained.

“I’ve trained for this race for a month,” Tarzan reported. His regimen included running 26-miles from Pawtucket, R.I., to Attleboro, Mass., and ran 17-miles several times, the other times he ran five and 10 miles. He ran twice a week, he said.

“I followed my own schedule, I ran on my own,” Tarzan said. “I don’t follow no diet.”

It drizzled off and on all that day, but the only thunder was in the stride of Tarzan Brown. Unlike 1936, when he burst out at fullspeed, Tarzan paced himself, running evenly, smoothly. This time there was no drama on Heartbreak Hill.

“I just set a pace today today that would carry me along faster than I figured anyone else could run that distance,” Tarzan explained.

With a time of 2:28:51 Tarzan won his second Boston Marathon, becoming the first to complete the longer course in under two-and-a-half hours. And he won a spot on the 1940 Olympics, to be held in Amsterdam.

This is probably the year that Providence Journal writers had in mind when the headline of his eulogy stated, “Forty years ago he was, perhaps, the greatest long distance runner in the world.”


The Race No Man Can Win


Tarzan was looking forward to redeeming himself in the 1940 Olympics, but Fate had other plans. The contests were cancelled because of World War II.

His career was winding down now, as Tarzan’s dash through life was slowly losing its lead to Father Time’s unrelenting pace.

But his legend was established. He lost a national championship race when he stopped before the finish line to remove an offending shoe, he went to great lengths to win bets – biting a snake in half and eating glass, for example.

Hopkins, Sr., was astonished one winter morning when he went over to Tarzan’s house to claim victory. They had bet on who would get their morning fire started first.

There were no tracks near the woods, so, as he approached Tarzan’s home, Hopkins was sure he had won. But as he drew nearer he saw smoke curling from Tarzan’s chimney.

“Rather than going out in the cold, Tarzly had chopped up the inside of his house for firewood,” Hopkins explained.

One story had Tarzan’s famous truck, the silver streak, broken down so Tarzan put it on the railroad tracks and dragged it home. The truck had no head or taillights, no fenders, a cracked windshield, no wipers and the passenger door held on by clothesline.

Tarzan had worked for the Westerly, R.I., Highway Department and, with Salimeno’s help, had been able to find a house in Westerly. But things weren’t always going his way.

“He had some hard, old times,” his sister, Myra Brown, said. Then she chuckled, “But he loved my Johnnycakes and chowder.”

Finally, Tarzan hit on a difficult plan. If he could win once more in Boston – in record time – he might get some financing to buy a new truck so he could “make a good living.”

He prepared for the 1945 Boston Marathon. He told Nason that he had trained two-and-a-half months for this final race. He had lost 15 pounds, now weighing 153 and standing 5’7’’.

“Maybe I can win the marathon, maybe I can’t,” Tarzan told Nason. “But I’ll tell you this much – if I’m up there at 20 miles, nobody’s gonna beat me!”

But time had taken its toll; though the heart and will were there, the lightning once in his legs now refused to ignite.


“I won 1,000 trophies”


With his racing career over, life became a struggle for Tarzan. He lost his house in Westerly and moved to King’s Factory Road, in Charlestown, where his shack was constructed by nailing boards up to four trees he found in a square. His family bathed in a nearby brook, at a spot Tarzan had widened by hand. There was no electricity. He took on odd jobs to provide for his family – cutting wood, delivering coal, stone masonry and handyman.

When he was running, people couldn’t do enough for him, he complained. But after he stopped he couldn’t even get a haircut in Westerly, Tarzan lamented. People would pay a “tree expert” $75 to remove a tree from their yard, but Tarzan said he was lucky if they’d pay him $20.

“I won 1,000 trophies, but sooner or later they all turn black,” Tarzan said.

He had sold or given away most of his trophies over the years.

“If only I could get someone to back me, and be square about it,” Tarzan said.

His last race took place in 1954. A young sailor doubted the old man’s story about once being a great runner and bet $5 he could beat Tarzan.

After years of winning trophies and laurels, Tarzan took home $5 in his last race, which he ran in old workboots.

In 1975, Tarzan was at The Wreck bar in Misquamicut, R.I., with some other Narragansett tribal members. Some of the Indians got into an argument with a 26-year-old Connecticut man. In the parking lot the man jumped in his van and sped off – running over Tarzan Brown.

The race was over.

But while mortal man must die, legends live on forever. In 1973, Tarzan had been elected to the National Indian Athletic Hall of Fame, in Lawrence, Kan.

So, I guess I can truthfully say that greatness runs in my family.

(The author is the great-nephew of Ellison “Tarzan” Brown)


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Try and see it my way ...

Can liberals and conservatives be friends?

I believe so; and, somehow over the course of my leftist life, several of my best friends – people I love and respect – happen to be conservative.

One in particular sometimes frustrates me to no end, with views that border on frightening. He’s not just “don’t wear white after Labor Day” conservative, but so far right as to make the Tea Party appear rational.

And we are still friends.

To maintain a cross-political relationship does require a lot of work, though. Both parties have to have a strong belief in freedom of speech – even speech that they vehemently disagree with – and it helps to have an almost-superhuman ability to overlook comments or viewpoints that make you cringe inside.

And sometimes that isn’t even enough.

One of my closest friends is a frequent poster on social network sites, which means I often see many of his political diatribes which sometimes cause me to choke and sputter in outrage and disbelief.

Many of the issues we disagree on pertain to simple politics, where facts play little role. For example, he places the blame for the federal deficit squarely on President Obama’s shoulders, and absolves former-President Bush of any culpability.

There’s no room for compromise here. Our opinions are cemented in how differently we see and understand “the facts.”

I wonder about my right-leaning friends; for I know they are quality individuals; honest, hard-working and without prejudice. They are the kind of people you’d want to be your neighbors, your friends.

How can so many of my treasured friends hold political views so abhorrent to my own? Believe me, I have thought about this often. I think the answer is empathy.

Some of my friends don’t think the federal government should regulate businesses; but I say that was once the norm in America and we had 10-year-old kids working 12-hour days in coal mines.

That’s why I think the main different is empathy. Conservatives can’t put themselves in the shoes of the abused worker, because when they envision the scenario they see themselves as owning the business, never as one of the average workers.

A national issue now is whether businesses have to serve gay customers. Conservatives say a business owner should be able to decide what customers he or she will serve.

Again that stance is rooted in the inability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But I grew up in a pleasant small town in Rhode Island, and what if stores there could decide not to serve brown-skinned people? Guess what; my town only had two brown-skinned families, so 99.9% of the town – including my conservative friends – wouldn’t have been affected by such a change.

I have no doubt my family would. My parents wanted to buy a house once when one the community’s leading members said he’d have to check to make sure none of the other homeowners objected to a brown-skinned family living in the neighborhood.

The issue that my conservative friend recently railed at was assimilation; he basically said if you don’t want to assimilate into American society, you should just go back where you came from.

I can’t tell you how offended I was by that comment.

Now, I can understand how my friend could reach that conclusion. As I said, a lack of empathy is the culprit. My friend is a white male, so when has his ilk ever had to assimilate to anything in America? It’s easy to tell others to assimilate to your societal views, when it requires no change on your part.

His views on assimilation were especially distasteful to me, because I am an American Indian – a group of people who were forced to assimilate. Nor am I talking about things that happened hundreds of years ago.

My wife’s mother remembers the day she was “captured,” that’s the word she uses. In the late 1940s-early 1950s Navajos didn’t own cars, so when a car came down the road Indian parents warned their children to run into the hills and hide until the white people left. One day, my mother-in-law was too slow and the people in the car grabbed her, threw her in the back seat and took her from Arizona to Oklahoma so she could be assimilated. She was nine.

My father-in-law was only five when white government workers came to his rural Arizona community, yanked him away from his mother and sent him to Oklahoma.

They were children who did not speak English, who did not understand what was happening, who feared they would never see their families again.

It is a shame that my conservative friend, who believes in assimilation, lacks the ability to see it from another point of view. I have no doubt that he would think less highly of assimilation if some foreign government had pulled into his driveway and stole his five-year-old child away.


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Chairman Meow, the Fuzzy Tyrant

As my father-in-law, Reuben Begay Sr., backed his “Navajo Cadillac” up I fell in love with the reclining chair tied in the back. Even before the tailgate was opened my heart was racing, fantasizing about all the comfortable hours I would have sitting in m new favorite chair.

You see I like to sleep in reclining chairs, rather than a bed. Which may help explain why I have no children.

“Go ahead,” my wife, Sara, said. “Put it wherever you want.”

Well, I wanted to put it in the Jungle Room at
Graceland Mansion, but I didn’t think Priscilla Presley would be cool with that idea, so – like Sheldon Cooper, of “The Big Bang Theory” – I set it in just the exact spot. It was at a slight angle so I could watch TV, and yet carry on a conversation during the mundane moments of auto insurance, beer and Viagra commercials.

It was close enough to the fridge that I could make the trek for a cold can of Diet Dr. Pepper without missing what Judge Judy was saying; and situated in such a way that I could bolt out the door if a monster should suddenly crash through the living room window. Unless Sara was home; then I’d have to fight the monster while she ran away, even though said monster would probably end up killing me. Ain’t love a bitch?

But I didn’t care, I was willing to make that noble sacrifice for my sweetie pie. So until that fateful day when I have to square off against Dracula or some zombie, I planned to enjoy reclining in comfort.

“How do you like your new chair?” Sara asked.

Meow,” replied Tye Tye, our soft, fuzzy ball of mischief. His name is Tiger Tiberius, which we often shorten to Tye Tye. While Sara and I think of him as our beloved “son,” Tiger views us as “those pests that won’t leave my house.”

“Whoa, Tiger,” I interrupted. “You have your own chair, this one is daddy’s.”

Meow,” Tye Tye said, with a look in his eyes that seemed to say “We’ll see about that, chubby.”

I’m not saying that Tiger is spoiled, but before my new chair arrived, he had the most comfortable chair in the house, padded with his own yellow blanket, decorated with little doggies. He also has three cat beds, several blankets of his own, numerous birds and mice that either squeak or are filled with catnip and the only flavors of canned cat food that he deigns to eat.

Oh, and every day about 5 p.m. he leaps up to his own place on the counter and meows to let us know he’s ready for his daily bowl of whipped cream. It’s Redi Whip, extra creamy; he refuses to eat any other kind.

Talk about spoiled, Tye Tye makes demands on us that most cats don’t. For example, he enjoys the occasional olive, nibbling corn off the cob and McDonald’s sweet tea.

But don’t set seafood in front of him. He’ll sniff it and turn his back in protest. Tye’s the first cat I’ve met that won’t touch seafood. Well, I should say “won’t eat” seafood, he will touch it sometimes; he likes batting shrimp around the room no matter how often I tell him not to play with his food.

So that’s our Mr. Fuzzy Head.

Sara pampers Tye, and I like pretend to be a grouch, but I can’t resist petting him and slipping him treats when Sara isn’t looking. I can’t let her know that I’m crazy about Tiger, too, or that cat will completely run our lives.

First I went and got a blanket for my new chair. Then I arranged the shelf next to the chair just the way I liked it, so my soda and snacks would be close to hand.

Then I went into my office to get a book. I was looking forward to relaxing in my soft, new recliner with a god book. (I knew it was a good book, because I wrote it. Now, for a shameless plug: check out “Loki: God of Mischief” or any of my books at or

I walk down the short hallway, emerge into the living room and guess where Mr.Tye is?

That’s right, he’s stretched out on my Pendleton blanket, in my recliner and looks at me like he’s Chairman Meow!

“Hey, that’s my chair, Fuzzy Head,” I said.

He barely opens one eye, looks at me and yawns. Fortunately a water spray bottle encourages him to leave my chair.

I settle down to a great night’s sleep, only to awake at 3 a.m. and find a cat sleeping on my chest!

It’s going to be a tough fight for control of the new reclining chair, but this time Tiger Tiberius is going to find out that he’s no match for Lazy Boy.

And I don’t mean the chair.




Friday, March 28, 2014


Author John Christian Hopkins creates a world of myth, magic and mayhem in "Loki: The God of Mischief." (Blue Hand Books, 2014).

Cosmic warfare has been ongoing since time began, then -- faced with world destruction -- the wisest of the rival factions formed a plan to prevent Ragnarok, the "Twilight of the Gods."

When tabloid reporter Napoleon Marquard investigates a gruesome homicide he finds himself straining to believe what seems to be happening. Creatures and legends from the world's mythologies seem to be coming back to life in a race to decide the fate of the world.

Manipulating the events appears to be an incarnation of Loki, a Viking deity who would see the world submit before him -- or destroy it forever!

Loki: God of Mischief is available at or For more information or to ask about specials for large orders, visit BlueHand Books.orh

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Back Home

Author John Christian Hopkins recently successfully concluded a short promotional tour for his latest book, “Carlomagno: Adventures of the Pirate Prince of the Wampanoags” (Blue Hand Books, 2013).

Hopkins, a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, returned to his home state of Rhode Island to speak at Bryant University in Smithfield, R.I. on March 6 and the Tomaquag Indian Museum in Exeter, R.I., March 8.

“Carlomagno” is an imaginative “what-if” blend of historical fact and fiction. It tells the story of an American Indian youth that is sold into slavery in the West Indies, escapes bondage, becomes a pirate on the Spanish Main and fights for a chance to return to the American Colonies.

Hopkins’ newest work is “Loki: God of Mischief” (Blue Hand Books, 2014) which only became available on Kindle March 4. A paperback edition will follow soon, Blue Hand Books founder Trace DeMeyer said.

Blue Hand Books is a native cooperative based in Greenfield, Mass.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Okay, I admit it ...

The brave decision by college football star Michael Sam, to announce publicly that he is gay, has finally given me the courage to admit the truth about myself.

So, here goes. Drum roll, please.

I am a male lesbian.

Whew, I feel like a burden has been lifted from my shoulders.

You have no idea what nerve that took.  I’ve known for years that I was attracted to women, it was a sickness, I tell you. I had it bad when it came to women; tall, short, blonde, redhead (especially redheads!) athletic, chubby, long hair, short hair (okay, not so much short hair) black, white, Asian, Latina, Native American – even green-skinned women from Star Trek – it didn’t matter. If she was a woman – or would resemble one when inflated, I couldn’t stop my eyes from checking out her ass … ets.

Yeah, assets, I meant.

To keep my young, impressionable mind from decadent thoughts, I’d silently try to pretend that women were delicious Twinkies. I mean who could fault you for gazing lovingly at those golden sponge cakes filled with tantalizing crème filling?

But try as I might, I couldn’t make the ladies sponge cake worthy. In shame, I realized that, like most men, I wanted a Mrs. Butterworth in the kitchen and a Ho Ho in the bedroom.

I’m not sure if I’m ready for the backlash sure to come my way for confessing to being a male lesbian, or “lezman,” if you must.

I mean when Michael Sam announced that he was gay, within days it was the subject of sports talk shows, even a segment on the national evening news and various celebrities have applauded his decision. I bet People magazine is already planning to name Sam as its “Sexiest Gay Man Alive.”

But there’s still a stigma to admit you’re lezman.

I bet no celebrities will congratulate me, the guys on “Pardon the Interruption” won’t opine on how brave my decision to come out is and the national news programs won’t even mention me.

Matt Lauer won’t have me on for an interview, there will be no vocal support from Oprah and Brad will keep Angelina away from me (if he’s smart!).

A lezman stands alone.

I have a scarlet “H” on my back. I will always be looked down on as a perverted heterosexual.

But, I didn’t choose to be heterosexual. I wish people would realize that I was born this way. Who would willing choose to be a lezman?

I’m sure there are other male lesbians out there, they’re just not ready to come back into the closet yet. Think you might be a lezman?

Answer these simple questions:

Do you think “When Harry Met Sally” would have been a much better movie if it was called “When Harry Did Sally?”

Do women feel the need to remind you “my eyes are up here” when you’re talking to them?

Do you smirk every time you hear a woman use the phrase “Tit for tat?”

If you answered “yes” to any of those questions, then I’ve got some bad news, guys; you could be a heterosexual male, whether you like it or not.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mr. Curous: An amazing 2 inches?

Dear Mr. Curious: How can Atlanta – America’s 9th largest city – be crippled by two lousy inches of snow?


Ivanna Know

Dear I. Know: I know, right? The last time someone complained about two inches it was on my honeymoon!

My first reaction when I heard about the snarled traffic was, “Okay, Governor Christie has gone too far!” But this is really a story about government waste. I mean the Union spent four years and millions of dollars fighting these people when all we had to do was equip each soldier with a bucket of snow?

Hopefully the weather will warm up and the snow will soon be gone with the wind!

Dear Mr. Curious: Why is Justin Bieber getting so much attention these days? What up wid dat?


Shawn Cassidy

Dear Cass: I emphasize with you, one day the idol of millions, the next … well, me. It seems these days Mr. Bieber can’t do ron ron anything right.

Or can he?

What if he is hoping to catch the eye of Kris Jenner? The Kardashian empire still has a couple of unmarried girls, so maybe The Biebs is hoping to snatch up one of them and star in his own reality show: “Leave it to Bieber.”

Dear Mr. Curious: I want to surprise my wife with a cruise, but I keep hearing tales of horror onboard some cruise lines. Is it safe?


Ty Tanic

Dear Ty: A relaxing cruise is the way to go, especially in the Caribbean where the chances of hitting an iceberg are minimal. Of course there is always risk involved, for example you can end up wrecked on an uncharted desert isle with a guy named Gilligan.

If your wife does get sick aboard ship, pretend its part of the special Love Bloat package.

Dear Mr. Curious: I am – er, I mean a friend of mine is – considering a run for president in 2016. The problem is that my husb – um, her husband – has lots of baggage. Is America ready for its first woman president?


Hillary Rodham X

Dear X: There’s an old saying, “Once you go black, you never go back,” so not only has America shattered the Black Ceiling, it is certainly ready to go one better – President Winfrey!

As for you – I mean, your friend’s – case, I’d say go for it. The Good Ol’ Boys on Capitol Hill have screwed up enough, time to give Capitol Hillary a chance.

Dear Mr. Curious: I was a late-night talk show host and was No. 1 in my time slot, but was still forced into retirement. Has this ever happened before?


Jaylen Oh

Dear Oh: To find someone forced into retirement while at the top of their game, you have to go back to 1934, when John Dillinger was forced out of the Public Enemy No. 1 position. Hopefully, you’ll enjoy your retirement more than Dillinger did.

Dear Mr. Curious: I know I’m still a great baseball player, but my team is making it clear it wishes I would go away. How can I continue to play ball?


A. Roid

Dear A.Roid: Buy a Play Station. You had a chance to be the greatest ballplayer ever, but chose, instead, to be one of its biggest cheaters. That’s The House That Truth Built.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Me? McPicky? Nah ... well...

My wife, Sara, thinks I am a picky eater, but you be the judge. I’m sure that I’m not the only person who eats salad one piece of lettuce at a time.

I suppose our idea of what makes a salad is different; Sara likes cucumbers, olives, tomatoes and even those crunchy little bits of stale bread on top. Me? Well, I will eat a sliver or two of a tomato, if it has salt and pepper on it. But olives? I don’t eat things that look like eyeballs.

A bowl of lettuce is my idea of a salad. Well, sort of. It has to be iceberg lettuce. None of that romaine stuff for me. What I like is dressing on the side – usually French or Italian – and I pick up a piece of lettuce and dip it in the dressing.

Now, I ask you, is that so weird?

Thanks to Sara, though, I have expanded my list of acceptable salad dressings. I love Dorothy Lynch!

It’s probably easier to be picky these days than it was when I was kid. For breakfast we had either oatmeal – there was only one flavor then – or ate dried Brillo pads. At least that’s how I always thought of shredded wheat.

If a food is so hard that you have to soak it in warm water before you can eat it, I think maybe it’s not meant to be consumed. I tried taking a bite of bristly square without softening it up first and it felt like I’d bitten into a porcupine with all the little sharp pieces stabbing my tongue and insides of my cheeks.

Actually, today my favorite cereal is probably bite-sized  Mini Wheats. Maybe because you can get flavors, like strawberry, apple cinnamon, maple – and all of them with frosting!

When I was young Shredded Wheat only came in one flavor: canvas.

And I don’t like milk – unless you add “shake” to the end of it. I began to lose interest in milk as soon as I found out that brown cows don’t produce chocolate milk.

In fact I have always eaten cold cereal straight out of the box, no bowl of milk for me!

Since moving to Arizona I have discovered that I am lactose intolerant, so maybe that’s why I was never a big fan of dairy. I used to get sick maybe once out of every 10 times, now it’s more like I don’t get sick one out of 10.

It really becomes a problem when my stubbornness runs smack-dab into my intolerance. While I don’t like most dairy products, I do like sharp cheddar and Swiss cheese.

And ice cream. I love ice cream! If ice cream was made of poison, I’d still risk a bowlful now and then. Bowlful? Who am I kidding? I eat ice cream by the pint, or half gallon. I like Rocky Road, strawberry, butter pecan … it’s almost impossible to find an ice cream that I won’t eat.

But Sara managed it.

She bought me home cherry ice cream. Cherry holds a special place in my pantheon of oddities. I like cherry-flavored drinks, but not foods. When I get a sundae, I won’t touch it until Sara eats the cherry on top.

Sara thinks it’s funny the way I eat my Mama’s French Toast at Cracker Barrel. I cut off a small piece at a time and then pour syrup on that one bite. Come on now, if I poured the syrup right on top, my French toast would get all soggy before I could eat it.

And soggy is my Kryptonite.

No soggy bread. No juicy burgers, no enchiladas, no pickles next to my sandwich and no sloppy Joes. When I go to a restaurant, my motto is: if it’s dripping, I ain’t tipping.

A picky eater? I think not.

I’ve just gotten more selective than I was when I was six and ate the fuzzy caterpillar.





more about John C. Hopkins

John Christian Hopkins is a member of the Narragansett Indian Tribe, a descendant of King Ninigret, patriarch of the tribe’s last hereditary royal family.
Hopkins is a career journalist who has worked at newspapers across New England, in New York, Florida most recently in Arizona. He was a former nationally syndicated newspaper columnist for Gannett News Service.
As a child Hopkins slept clutching books to his chest and dreamed of becoming an author.
“I’ve never wanted to do anything else but write,” Hopkins said.
Though proud of his native heritage—among his ancestors was Quadrequina, brother to Massasoit and the one that introduced popped corn to the Pilgrims at the First Thanksgiving—Hopkins is determined not to be pigeon-holed as a native author, but as an author who happens to be Native American.

Sign In