My parents married on the spur of the moment,while my father was on leave from the navy. They immediately drove cross-country from Indiana to Long Beach, where Dad was gone all day, leaving Mom alone in a small apartment.
In those days, fast-talking salesmen often knocked on your door, and the naive 20-year old with her first checking account was an easy target. Mom ended up buying several things that she regretted later: a vacuum cleaner, a set of ceramic dogs, a record-of-the-month service.
And a 20-volume black-and-red bound set of Collier's Encyclopedia.
The salesman told her that it would be essential for her future children's success in school.
(No, I don't know why my parents didn't get just rid of them before leaving Long Beach.)
The salesman was lying: not once did I, or my brother or sister, have a homework assignment that required the Collier's Encyclopedia.
But I loved it. When I was in grade school at Denkmann, I used to bring volumes upstairs and leaf through them while the family was watching tv.
My brother derided me as a "braniac" for reading the encyclopedia. But I didn't actually read much, although occasionally an interesting fact sprang out at me, like the Yaghan of Pantagonia wore no clothes, even in bitter winter weather.
I found dozens of them, in articles on Indonesia, Indian Tribes of South America, African Tribes, China, Bolivia, and the Artic.
South American Indians wrestling, but I thought they were hugging.
Pygmies of the Belgian Congo (now Zaire).
Barrel-chested Aymara tribesmen of the Andes.
Javanese athletes wearing only suggestive pouches, holding hands.
My first glimpses of a "good place," where same-sex desire was free and open, came from the My Village Books and the Collier's Encyclopedia.
By the way, years later, I looked up "homosexuality" in the index, and found only one reference, under Abnormal Psychology.
It's amazing that I found glimmers of hope in the silence.
See also: The Gay Village of Sonia and Tim Gidal.