Emerson wrote: "How shall a man escape from his ancestors, or draw off from his veins the black drop which he drew from his father's or his mother's life?" And so the journey begins with the far greater influence - a mother, once a sweatshop immigrant attaining prominence in the fashion world and a father who amasses and squanders fortunes before disbarment. Whether being born to two dominant parents - anything but close in Julian's formative years - helped bring about his transvestism is conjecture, but this reviewer notes early on in this memoir the thread of guilt and misgivings - baggage that gnaws his conscience throughout his life. The explicit descriptions of discovering sex; in fact Julian's selfish obsession with sex, leaves little doubt of his heterosexuality. But the turmoil results in a protective veneer that shields him from reciprocating to those who love him. Julian's frequent self-examinations are especially critical, so he might be excused for being equally harsh towards his wife's weaknesses.
Julian entered the retail field by happenstance (as do most retailers) and progressed from specialty stores, so-called "conventional" retailing and on to the discount industry as that concept became accepted. His venture into the catalog showroom business provides an interesting view of a form of retailing now almost completely vanished. The cameo meetings with Sam Walton, founder of Wal-Mart, offers insight not previously disclosed of this individual. Other encounters - with Andrew Higgins, creator of the landing craft vital to the American success in World War II; and with Pedro Armandariz, once the matinee idol of Spanish-speaking countries, are only two of the many fascinating personages the reader will meet.
Reflecting on his search in a white "no-mans land" for the leaders of the Cleveland race riots in the '60s, and an armed midnight meeting with a group of rifle-bearing dissidents, Julian realizes how naive he was venturing into a world utterly new to him.
I found his musings especially poignant when pondering crass commercialism while walking down Fifth Avenue on Christmas Eve; while attending High Mass at the Quebec cathedral and similar reflections at the Easter sunrise service in the Hollywood Bowl; and during his Wharton graduation ceremony - thoughts that go straight to one's soul.
The writer's peek into the fantasyland of motion pictures is fascinating as he rubs shoulders with the stars of post-war Hollywood.
A most welcome addition to the Second Edition is the chapter entitled: "Myths,Fallacies and Most Therapists Without A Clue". The culture of cross dressing can be most confusing and one is wont to jump to wrong conclusions without the aid of such a guide.
The relating of his fumbling while preparing for and participating in his first bomber raid over Germany provides a personal touch not usually found in narratives of wartime action. A trip back to England forty years later to revisit memories of World War II finds Julian in an obscure chapel where fallen airmen's names are inscribed-one memorial amidst hundreds on British soil going back over a thousand years-brings home the futility of such conflicts.
Experiences now very recognizable to the many "downsized" from the work force due (never admitted) to age, but still possessed of vigor and ambition, include the realization that companies that do hire them are not interested in training them again for executive positions - poor investment. This acceptance is hard to swallow and often takes additional job changes before the reality becomes apparent. Julian's selected diaries of job interviews that initially are promising and then become dead ends without employer explanations that make any sense will also be familiar to many.
After repeated failures the writer struggles to find meaning in his life and his place in the universe. His thought processes are logical and one can easily relate. However, Julian enters a labyrinth with riddles left unanswered.
The author's journey to new places, meeting interesting people, and his observations with a rather unique slant move swiftly-the reader hardly knows what they will find on the next page or chapter - not unlike one's own travels through life. There is really no way to compress this journal further-it is already abridged-for they are the reality of living. To do otherwise would be to eliminate adventures, emotions and descriptions vital to the telling, and to the ending this reviewer cannot disclose out of context to the full experience.