Saturday, January 02, 2010

Finding My Place: One Man’s Journey From Cleveland to Boston and Beyond Judah Leblang.

Finding My Place: One Man’s Journey From Cleveland to Boston and Beyond Judah Leblang. $16.

Take it from me turning 50 can be difficult, your motorcycle needs constant repairs, and your hairpiece never sticks right. It can even be more “challenging” if you are Jewish, Gay—and a man still in search of his identity—for his niche in the world. Have if you will, one Mr. Judah Leblang, a well-known storyteller and writer formerly of Somerville and a columnist for the “farm team”: The Somerville Journal. Leblang has come out of the closet in more ways than one with his memoir: “My Place: One Man’s Journey From Cleveland to Boston and Beyond…” Now if things weren’t hard enough for the kid; he grew up in and around a city (Cleveland) in the 60’s and 70’s that was know for a polluted river that exploded in fire, making the dirty water of the Charles seem benign and Brahmin. Leblang traces his time from that city to his time in Boston, and along the way changes his name, embraces his sexuality, comes to terms with his past, and hopefully is at a better place now as a 50 something guy.

If you are a Baby Boomer you will certainly relate to many of his references—the trappings of his middle class youth—such as nights with the family watching the Ed Sullivan Show, Davy and Goliath cartoons in the A.M., the Zenith Color TV set, and Mr. Ed—the one and only talking horse.

Leblang’s journey takes him from an awkward and shy Jewish boy in the ‘burbs –-to a man-- still a little shy and uneasy in his own skin, but more accepting of himself. Like anyone who has been on the second half of the roller coaster ride he has endured a number of bad relationships, he tries to reconcile with his very straight older brother—and even comes to term with Cleveland—that he has a serious love/hate conflict with..

At the relatively advanced age of 51 he feels the sadness and the levity at the lengths he takes as he searches for lost youth, love, and lust. In this passage that takes place in Provincetown, a summer Mecca for Gay men, Leblang thinks:

“I was a 51 year old man, hearing aid tucked discreetly behind my left ear, striving for youth, lusting after men a decade younger. But the only look I gathered was from a dusty, wizened character about my age, leaning against a storefront. Still, he examined me up and down, with a look that might have been lust or simply curiosity.”

This is an honest account, a very intimate book, that will make you feel uncomfortable, and perhaps a bit red faced. Why?—it will bring you face to face with that poor shlub of a kid that you once were—and haven’t quite completely shaken.


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