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The Pecking Order



I was standing on the corner of Rue Grimaldi and Rue de Mille in Monaco eating a mango gelato from L’Epi D’Or waiting for the light to turn to green when I looked across the howdy in the street and saw a woman buying bunches of cerises and a couple of those huge lumpy lemons that look like, and are sometimes almost as big as, an old boxer’s head.


I don’t know why I noticed her. She was wearing jeans and a white collared cotton shirt, buttoned almost all the way up, with casual cotton sneakers. If I had to guess I would have said Sperrys or checkerboard slip-on skippies, if they were even available in France at the time. I suppose if you’re the princess of Monaco, everything’s available to you at the time. She was the de facto first lady too after her mother’s death in 1982, and would become once again, briefly, the heir presumptive when her father died a few years later, and her brother Albert hadn’t had a (legitimate) heir by then.

The walk light flashed and as I was crossing the street I watched her get into her Land Rover Range Rover Classic (Long Wheel Base) and drive right past me just as I stepped onto the opposite sidewalk. I noticed she was wearing oversized oval Pierre Marly tortoiseshell sunglasses, a la Simone Signoret, or maybe they were Rayban Jackie OHH IIs. She whispered by me, her brown hair fluttering a soft susseration in the open window, and on down the street to the harbor, and then presumably a sharp right-hand turn, downshifting, onto the kinky cliff road winding all the way up to the palace.


I had seen Caroline two other times: once coming out of a pottery shop in Vallauris–buying some Picasso ceramic plates that now I’m not so sure were knock-offs. Again, an easy and breezy sway–in the azure sky she was sunshine. And then a sidelong glimpse as I was heading home over the hill, at a cafe in Cannes–Canal+ was filming some kind of tv show for the film festival, and our Princess was standing around with the crew smoking cigarettes between takes. I walked over to say hello, when a Monagasque musclehead with hands like meathooks stepped in front of me, giganticly. I thought of Virgil’s wise words: "Be steadfast, men, and preserve yourselves for happier occasions.”


When I was in high school, I kept what I called “The Pecking Order”– a list of the girls/women I was in love with at any one time. The usual suspects were on it like Rachel Welch and Farrah Fawcett and Stevie Nicks, but also Libby Wyley, and June Harrelson–two homecoming queens, complete with fundamental crowns and a million dreams of love surrounding them. This was back when I still thought my iron will wasn’t the hardest part of my body, and I hadn’t yet taken complete charge of my faculties. I didn’t even know where some of them were to be honest, never mind even how to put the thing in the thing. Still kinda don’t.


I decided to revive this puerile pleasure because it used to be so fun–everyone in school knew about it, vaguely, and was always badgering me to find out who might be on it. And if they were, where. Women, depending, felt either jealous or envious. It was only after I had chickens and a black cockerel and found out how unsentimentally total and hierarchical nature is that I realized it’s not something to be made lightly or light of. A lot of time there was blood-that Gallus gallus bastard would sometime peck a poor hen’s red crest to death, literally. By then I realized the difference between us humans and farm fowl in the main is that we sometimes can have a sense of humor and subtlety when it comes to dominance, and this listicle revival exercise is probably the perfect time and way to prove it.


I’ve also revived The Pecking Order because I’m at the same place in my life as far as faculties are concerned that I was back then: not knowing where all of them are, or the when and how and why of some of them most of the time. In those days I was arrogant and ignorant, and understandably almost universally unliked, and now I’m also disliked, thankfully, but for a different reason: I’m incorrigibly deaf to the clarion call of giving a shit.

Seriously, my overwhelming urge right this second, and for the foreseeable future, while on the slow-sweat spiral staircase downward to oblivion–morality and aesthetics aside–and in the spirit of Schopenhauer’s will zu leben theory of man and animals, is to just want to impregnate fertile women. In general, but specifically ones with ideal hip to waist ratios of 6:8. Decadence? Depravity? Upbringing? Toxic masculinity? Creep factor stereotype incarnate? I said want, not will. And unconsummation comes, and jars both hemispheres…


Passion is a slave to reason as Hume surmised, but thinking about desire isn’t a crime. Yet.

Alright, here goes. I’ve already mentioned Princess Caroline, because at the time she was definitely a top-contender, if not the top contender. I also had a brief crush on her younger sister, Stephanie, until she inexplicably eloped at like thirteen with a crude and appalling Gallic circus acrobat. The list after that was all over the place, literally, especially when I got to Australia and fell in love with Aussie surfer girls on a daily basis, one in particular–a Colgate-blonde coconut who hanged-ten topless, and the icing on that lovely fishcake was her jokey-bloke dad owned the local liquor store. That’s a trifecta right there, innit?


I’ll skip over my marriage, and the bedlamite years, the numbing, futile wilderness of stay-at-home diaper changing, and then the countless dance-class carpools and seemingly-endless, entitled-teenage histrionics, and try to finally bring the list up to date.


Meantime, cue the Flower Duet from Lakmé…


Photo © Steven Halling

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