HOW I WON THE DANCE CONTEST
PERSPECTIVE IS EVERYTHING
In 1965, the local radio station threw a block party.
The AM station, WBIS, was insignificant and unpopular. Their claim to fame was that the actor Bob Crane had started his career there.
The Hartford stations WPOP and WDRC were the stations everyone listened to.
But my best friend Doris and I had discovered something cool about the local station. They gave away little prizes all the time. We’d listen on Saturday afternoon. It was “name that tune” or “be the fourth caller” and you’d win a key chain or a pen that wrote in two colors. We loved those trivial prizes. We’d walk downtown to the radio’s shabby studio over the five-and-ten and collect our frequent winnings.
So we were excited about the block dance.
We spent hours fringing our cutoff jeans to the exact three-quarters-of-an-inch that was the optimal fringiness.
The party was held on a Friday night in June. The venue was the parking lot at Mafale’s Plaza, which was not so much a plaza as an appliance store with a laundromat.
But it was a warm beautiful night, and the turnout was pretty good.
Doris and I had rehearsed a few dances. At fourteen, I would have rather been dancing with a boy, but I figured that if I got out there on the dancefloor/asphalt, the boys would see what a good dancer I was. It didn’t quite work out that way. (But it did turn out to be a pretty good strategy during my nightclubbing thirties.)
So Doris and I danced together all evening.
And just like we expected, the DeeJay gave out prizes. He’d call out, “Hey, Blond Ponytail Girl with the pink blouse and the tall boy – come on up to the turntable. You’re the winner of this dance!”
There were tee shirts and Pepsis and records.
Doris and I danced every dance. Except the slow dances – and it killed us to sit those out, but we had some tiny bit of pride.
Round after round, the DeeJay would call out. “Curly-Hair Girl in Blue” and “Purple-Dress Lady” and “Bald Guy in the Hawaiian Shirt” – and couples would go get their prize.
The last dance of the night was the big hit of the year – The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”. Almost everyone had already gone home.
The DeeJay called out, “Hey, Skinny Little Girl and your friend – Come get your prize!”
That was US!
And the Deejay gave Doris a tee shirt and he gave me the 45 single:
Perspective is Everything.
By that last dance, everyone still dancing in that parking lot had already won a prize. We were the last dancers left who hadn’t won anything. The DeeJay took pity on us.
But that’s not the way we saw it.
To Doris and I, the last dance of the evening was the BIGGEST EVENT.
We won the FINAL ROUND.
The DeeJay saved us till the end so we could be the GRAND PRIZE WINNERS.
Yes, Perspective is Everything.
(Originally published in 2012)
I’ve been through a lot of election cycles.
I don’t remember Truman (though I was alive during his presidency) and I vaguely remember Eisenhower as president… not as candidate.
The first election I remember is Kennedy’s. I was nine. I remember how excited the nuns were back in 1960 – with a Catholic running for president. The sisters still wore their black habits back then, and were not allowed to adorn them in any way. But every nun at my parochial school wore a Kennedy campaign button pinned to her (usually enormous) bosom.
And every election after that…LBJ, Nixon (2), Carter, Reagan (2), Bush, Clinton (2), W. (2), Barack Obama (2).
So this is the FIFTEENTH election for me.
I am no novice. But I am still shocked.
Campaigns have gotten much longer and much louder and much much nastier. It is certainly not original for me to say that Campaigning has overtaken Governing in the way politicians spend their time.
And because of the ubiquity of the internet, in some ways we are more of a democracy than ever. Because EVERYONE can campaign.
All your friends, your family, your favorite websites – it is no longer just at the dinner table that folks are arguing over politics. It is EVERYWHERE. It is CONSTANT.
Sometimes it is thoughtful. But most of the time it is crass.
I have very low blood pressure, both physically and temperamentally. It takes a lot to get a rise out of me. But the last few weeks have had me aggravated and angry and my blood is throbbing in my ears.
I got into a Facebook pissing match last week with a good friend. She posted a meme that was easily disproved, and I was determined to do so. But I could not. The more data and sources I supplied to discredit her post, the more staunchly she defended it. In the end, I only convinced her of one thing: that I am an asshole.
I have regretted the argument all week.
And yesterday I took a pledge. I posted it on Facebook not only to my friends but to the general public. I see some spots where I could have expressed myself more eloquently, but it will serve the way it is.
It may not tone down the rhetoric. But I feel better. And perhaps my blood pressure will return to somewhere closer to its normal ‘I-faint-if-I-stand-up-too-quickly’ level. And I will survive until November.
I did not have a lot of boyfriends when I was young. I was a little self-conscious and nerdy, and could not figure out how to connect with boys, although I wanted to. But now and then, in my teens and twenties, I managed somehow to find myself with a boyfriend.
I met Lee when I was 19.
He broke my heart.
But not in the way you imagine.
We met twice before we connected. The first time I saw him – or rather, he saw me – was in the parking lot of the local movie theater. It was pretty late at night, because it had been a double feature – “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.” Both those films had been released many months before, and that’s why they were paired up as a bargain – but can you imagine a better double feature ever? Can you even imagine a double feature? But that’s what you still got occasionally in 1970.
But I digress. (Yes, I know… so what else is new?)
I was at the movies with my mother and my sister. And afterwards, as we went to our car, a couple of kids came over – not from the movie theater, they were walking from the other direction – and asked for a ride. We turned them down.
A few days later, I went for a walk in the park. I never walked in the park to visit with nature. No, I always went looking for a boy. From the time I was 15 until I was 35, I strolled the park in search of a boyfriend. I thought that would be a nice place to find a nice man. I only succeeded one time in all those 20 years.
There was a bunch of kids hanging around by the pond. One boy came over to me. He had long, rather stringy hair and ancient jeans that were raggedy where they dragged on the ground. Just like my jeans.
He said, “I know you. Outside the movie theater. You wouldn’t give me a ride.”
“I was with my mother. Do you think I would let my mother think I pick up strangers at midnight?” I replied.
“If your mother wasn’t there, would you have picked me up?” He asked.
He laughed.”Okay. How about now? I am not a stranger any more, since now we’ve met twice. I could use a ride home.”
And so I gave him a ride. Only it wasn’t exactly to his home. I dropped him off at a group home, a big falling-down Victorian house only a few blocks from the theater.
“So you didn’t really need a ride the other day,” I commented.
“Not really. I just wanted to see if you would.”
And we started hanging out together.
His real name was Leon, but he thought that was an old man’s name, and he wanted to be groovier than that.
Lee didn’t really live at the group home – they just let him sleep there once in a while when he was on the outs with his mother. His mother was from Poland; I had the impression that she was a war bride, but I’m not sure that’s true. What’s true is that Lee’s mother was a very angry woman. I only saw his dad once or twice; he had an apartment in a not-so-nice part of town, having moved out of their middle-class ranch home a few years before.
Now that I am older, I try to see the situation from his mother’s point of view. But it’s difficult. Everything Lee did was terrible/bad/wrong. His mother seemed to do nothing but yell in her broken English for him to get the hell out of her house. When I was with him, she’d yell the same thing at me. And once, when she came home unexpectedly and caught us mildly fooling around in his bedroom, she chased me out of the house, brandishing scissors.
Then there was Lee’s dad. Lee told me about a time when his mom had kicked Lee out of the house, and he went to his father’s place and asked if he could stay there for a while. His father gave him a fifty and told him to go to a motel for the night. That’s how he ended up sleeping at the group home once in a while.
My own parents were always very nice to my rare boyfriends, including Lee. My mother would make Lee tea with honey, which he loved. My father liked to talk sports, and although Lee didn’t seem to know a lot about sports, we’d sit and watch a game once in a while with my Dad.
I’m not sure what drew me to Lee. He was not handsome. At best, he resembled Neil Young, and I thought that was nice, but certainly not good-looking. He didn’t wash his hair enough. He wore the same clothes for days on end. He never had any money.
He was passingly smart – we both ended up attending night classes at a nearby college – but he was no great genius either. He rarely did any school work, and didn’t take the same courses I did. But he talked about the world with some knowledge. And he spoke very sweetly to me.
He didn’t ask much from me. Not money, not sex, not drugs. Mostly he liked to come over to my house and hang out. (Young people then did a lot of ‘hanging out’ – I think they still do.)
We had met at the very end of the summer of 1970, and mostly just ‘hung out,’ often with a small group of other long-haired hippie kids, throughout the fall and the beginning of winter.
My birthday is in early February. My parents were on a well-deserved vacation, and I was staying with my sister in her roommate-filled apartment. So I planned myself a little 20th birthday party. Nothing crazy. About 10 friends in my parent’s basement. Soda and snacks and just a little bit of cheap wine. It felt stupendously exciting though, because I was breaking the rules.
And Lee showed up that night – with another girl in tow. Yeah, just like the old song, “It’s My Party And I’ll Cry If I Want To.” I had had no suspicion that he was seeing anyone else. I was mortified. The party ended early, and I threw away all the food in a dumpster behind the supermarket the next morning.
My parents returned a few days later. When I told my mother that Lee and I had broken up, she said, “Well, then, why is he here?” And there he was, standing at the kitchen door.
I let him in, and my mother put the water on for tea, and then disappeared upstairs.
Lee and I sat at the kitchen table, both staring at our mugs.
After a long while, I said, “Why did you do that? In front of everyone like that?”
And Lee said, “I didn’t have the courage to break up with you – so I needed to make you hate me.”
“But why do you even want to break up? What’s wrong?”
And he said something pretty amazing.
“I knew because it was your birthday, you were thinking about having sex with me. You hinted about it. And I didn’t want to. I’m still a virgin,” he admitted. “And it’s stupid, but I want to be really in love before I do that.”
“And you are not in love with me?” I asked.
“I’m really sorry. I feel like a rat. I am a rat,” Lee said.
“Yes, you are.”
“But I want to tell you the truth… why I’m a rat.” Lee started to cry. “I mostly like you because I like your house and your family. It’s so nice here. Sometimes when I’m here, I pretend like I live here. I pretend like I’m your brother and your mother and father are my mom and dad.”
And that’s how he broke my heart.
I was a typical gullible kid.
At least I think so. I’m sure at some point I believed in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, although I can’t remember when. I certainly remember pretending that I did, since my parents told me quite sternly that kids who don’t believe in Santa (or who ruin it for their baby brothers) don’t get any presents.
But I figure when I was really little, I must have truly believed – since I believed enough in King Kong to have some pretty scary nights when I was sure I saw the Kong’s big paw reaching into my bedroom window. Yeah, right after the Empire State Building, I was sure he was heading for 58 Center Street in Bristol, Connecticut.
But on the other hand, I had some strong inclinations toward a healthy skepticism. One of my favorite expressions was “Really?” (which was the 8-year-old version of “Bullshit!”)
There were a bunch of things that kids often believed that earned my scorn:
Noah’s Ark. A big Ark Park is opening in Kentucky, and that is what brought all these memories back in the first place. Bible or no bible, I never thought this story was anything but a fairy tale. If God is all-powerful, and can destroy the world and all the evil in it, why couldn’t he just kill all the assholes, and not have to kill all the animals except 2 of each?
And how about the fish? How come they got a break?
On the other hand, I did believe that Jesus changed the water to wine at that big wedding. Even by 8 years old, I had been to a couple of weddings and saw that grown-ups needed wine in order to loosen up. But they didn’t need much. It was almost like they just needed the suggestion of wine. I was betting that Jesus simply TOLD them it was wine, and they had a much better time and were much better dancers.
Salem witches. Those townfolk thought witches had great magic, and so they threw the accused in the water, all weighted down, figuring if the witch was real, she would save herself. So when these poor women died, didn’t the townsfolk ever start to think….”Uh-oh. We are killing a hole bunch of innocent people here, so maybe this system isn’t really working”?
And how about if they had a real witch, and she stepped out of the water? With her witch powers still intact? Wouldn’t she be a little mad? Wouldn’t that be a little dangerously awkward?
So the conclusion was obvious, some poor ladies died, but there were no witches, or the good townspeople would have given up that activity real fast.
On the other hand, I wholeheartedly believed in ghosts. I may never had seen one, but they were out there as surely as King Kong was about to put his foot through my windowsill. I believed that ghosts liked to jump out and scare people. If you believed in them, you wouldn’t be quite so terrified, because you would sort of be expecting them, and that would spoil all the ghost-fun, so ghosts saved their jumping out for people who DIDN’T believe. They’d get more bang for the buck that way. So believing was a kind of insurance.
Superman. Oh, It wasn’t so much that he could fly, and lift up buildings with his finger and all. What I thought totally ridiculous was that no one recognized him because he put on a pair of glasses. Come on, Lois, doesn’t Clark remind you of someone?
And how about that cape? Clark Kent had his Superman costume on under his clothes. What the heck… (I didn’t say WTF until I was a teenager… and every moment since)… did he do with the cape? Tuck it into his underpants???
On the other hand, I could believe that Superman had x-ray vision. I have x-ray vision. It’s called imagination.
Your face will freeze that way. My Grandma used to warn me about crossing my eyes or making funny faces. I loved Grandma but I knew that was just nonsense.
And how did I know?
Channel 3 on Tuesday nights.
Nobody made more faces than Red Skelton. Not even all three Stooges put together. And yet, at the end of the show, when Red got all sweet and serious, his face went back to a regular face. Grandma watched that show. How did she not notice?
On the other hand…
Oh my God, for the last year or so, I wake up in the middle of the night and I can’t move my eyes. Sometimes it is just the right eye. Or sometimes just the left. Once in a while it is both. They are just STUCK. Takes me several minutes to get them out of whatever corner they are stuck in, and free them to look in a different direction. Sometimes I have to pee with my eyes looking away from where the toilet paper is.
My husband says I am dehydrated. He’s big on hydration. He might be right. I maybe need to lubricate my eyeballs better. But I’m 65 years old. I am already up in the middle of the night peeing. I don’t necessarily want to do that more than once (or twice) a night.
My eye doctor said she never heard of such a thing. She doesn’t see anything wrong with my eyes or the muscles that move them, and I can roll them easily enough in her office, and all the time around certain acquaintances, so I shouldn’t worry about it.
But Oh Grandma! I’m sorry. I’m sorry I ever doubted you.
Not mine. I had my antics back in February.
But I’m not very high on the Antic Scale anyway. I’d rate myself a 3.5 on the Antic Scale. Although I used to be a 1.2, so I am definitely upping my antics as I age. My husband, in his younger days, was about a 7.8, but now he is around a 3.6, as he has calmed down in recent years. So in effect, after nearly 25 years of marriage, we are finally sort of compatible.
Anyway, not my Birthday Antics. Not my husband’s birthday antics.
Theo turned one on July 3rd.
It was a very good reason to celebrate. The whole family – me, hubby, Theo himself, and especially our two cats Stewart and Lillian – are extremely glad that we are no longer living with a puppy.
No siree. Theo is a grown-up dog.
Except for the antics.
Here’s how he spent his birthday…actually the whole weekend, since it is kind of neat to have a holiday weekend and a birthday at the same time.
Picnic with his aunts and uncles (my sisters and their husbands). He ate: crackers, a little pizza, the extra shredded mozzarella from making the pizzas, a bit of strawberry shortcake, extra whipped cream from the shortcake, and a bison bone (yeah, he actually had one doggie thing.)
Sunday (the actual birthday):
This was a big day for Theo, and he filled it well.
First thing in the morning, he crept quietly by me as I was reading at the kitchen table, and ate all the cat food. Fancy Feast is WAY better than kibble.
Then he posed for a birthday photograph.
He helped with the gardening. He stole the trowel, stole my gardening gloves, and jumped from the patio wall into the daylilies, at some cost to the daylilies. And did you know that you can dig up daffodil bulbs, and they bounce almost as good as a ball?
Birthday dinner was big. When we go to the bison farm for Theo’s bones, we also buy ground bison for ourselves. Nice healthy burgers. So for Theo’s birthday, we opened a pound of bison and split it three ways. Yes, Theo got a 1/3 pounder.
The evening mostly consisted of various staredowns with Stewart the cat.
Monday (4th of July):
Theo occupied the morning with his very favorite past-time. Destroying that horrible menace called a shower scrubbie. Guess how many yards of netting you get if you shred a scrubbie. If you guessed a gajillion, you are very close.
With perfect weather, it only made sense to go for a ride in the convertible. Theo likes to ride between Hubby and me – back paws on the back seat, front paws on the center console, nose in the air, catching the breeze. (Yeah, I know, I know.. he should be buckled in, but once in while around town, we indulge him…please don’t call the SPCA on me.)
We took the convertible to a nearby lake, where Theo could bark at the hot, arguing families ineptly attempting to get their boats out of the marina. We encouraged him.
Then on to ice cream. In our little village of Litchfield, Connecticut there is a dairy farm called Arethusa. This is not an ordinary dairy farm. This is owned by the same guys who own Manolo Blahnik shoes. They have more money than anyone should, so they have decided to share it with cows. Their cows sleep on mattresses, get massages, have special shampoo for their hair type & color. As you can imagine, these are very happy cows, and they produce some mighty tasty milk. The ice cream parlor is only a few miles from our home. My husband had a strawberry cone. I had a cup of vanilla and two spoons. Theo had his own spoon, but not his own cup.
On the way home, the townfolk were firing the cannons on the Litchfield green. I cautioned my husband that Theo might understandably freak out. “Nonsense,” said Hubby, I’ll just cover his ears.” And so we sat in the open car with hubby’s hands over Theo’s ears. Oh yeah, it was SO effective against cannon fire. But Theo didn’t pee, so we were satisfied.
We did leave Theo home went we went to the fireworks display later in the evening. We live out in the woods, so he didn’t have to cope with any explosions from the neighbors, but my guess is that he would have found it pretty tame after the cannons.
Fetch was in order late in the evening. Fetch is Theo’s favorite game. It is pretty much his only game. I throw toys – his favorite is a beat-up bunny who no longer has ears, but still has an excruciating squeaker – while I watch TV, while I do the dishes, while I brush my teeth. I am throwing a turtle-thing right now as I write this blog.
But eventually, we got to our favorite part of the day. Theo’s bedtime.
Sometimes – often – Theo hates to go to bed. But other times – like after the long holiday/birthday weekend, our little one-year-old fell asleep still holding his bunny.
Happy Birthday, Theo.
A week or so ago, I wrote a piece about unsolved mysteries that haunt me.
At the time, I was referring to assassination questions that need to be answered. But I also mentioned that in a future post, I would discuss a few minor trivial mysteries that occasionally bug me.
When I was about nine years old, my school adopted this self-learning program for Reading. The curriculum included these little booklets, each with stories at various reading levels, and the students individually moved through the booklets, answered content and vocabulary questions, and advanced to the next level. I don’t think it was a bad method, as each kid could progress at his own pace. Most of the stories, though, were incredibly boring.
But one story interested me. It was a story about Betsy Ross. George Washington asked her to make the first American flag. I do not know how they knew each other, except that she was an upholsterer who resided in Philadelphia, and it appears Washington attended the same church when the new government was seated in Philly. I also read in a very erudite source (Wiki) that she was quite attractive. So it is certainly feasible that George said, “Hey Babe, how about you put down that sofa cover and check out my flag pole?”
Anyway, my 3rd grade story retold the now-famous legend that Washington wanted a six-pointed star, but Betsy wanted a five-pointed star. Washington said that a five-pointed star would be too difficult to reproduce en masse, and Betsy said, “Nonsense, GW, I can make a five-pointed star by folding the material and making just one cut.” And she did, and hence the American flag has five-pointed stars.
Well, on and off over the next few years (55 years to be a little more exact), I thought about a one-cut five-pointed star. I did not see how that could be possible.
It was my little mystery.
Of course, when I decided to write about this puzzle, I figured I would ask all you smart people to figure it out for me. But then I did something dumb, and ruined my story.
I You-tubed. (I know google is now a verb, and you-tubing is certainly about to be one.) And it took me 37 seconds to find multiple sources to cut a five pointed star with one cut.
Here’s the one I like best. (There is a simpler one, but this one refers to Betsy.)
So 55 years later, mystery solved. As simple as that. It is really quite a let-down, to tell you the truth.
I tried it. I failed several times, and swore more than several times, but it works. Here’s my star, which came out a bit chubby, but it’s definitely a star.
But a couple of points:
- As this nice lady in the video points out, there is a lot of waste.
- It might have been a bit complicated for Ms. Ross (actually Elizabeth Griscom Ross Ashburn Claypoole) to get each star perfect and identical .
- What is so hard about using a six-pointed star, like a Star of David? Just 2 equilateral triangles, with one turned upside down over the other. Very little waste. And you could then make a template for a simple triangle and cut multiple stars at one time.
Conclusion: Betsy Ross was a little show-off.
Conclusion #2: The Internet ruins everything.
PS – I wrote this piece before Mr. Trump used a Star Of David in a derogatory tweet. And Mrs. Ross certainly could have used that star before it had any negative connotation at all.
Not literally of course.
But this week, I read yet another article about things you should not do in public. Obvious stuff – like texting in a restaurant, letting your kids run wild in the grocery store, talking loudly at the movies.
I agreed with everything on the list.
But I thought it was a shame that all I read and hear is about the shit you shouldn’t do in public.
Someone should compile a list of shit you really should do in public.
I think it should be me.
Here’s a start:
Talk to strangers. OK, so maybe not if you are eight. But adult to adult? My husband always talks to the people in front and behind him in line at the supermarket. And everywhere really – at the post office, at the bank, at the gas pump. You know what he gets out of it? All his mindless, tedious errands have become opportunities to hear stories and make friends.
Share your table. A while ago, my husband and I went to a local restaurant and found it much busier than it usually is. We had to wait for a table. After several minutes, the couple ahead of us in line were seated. And so we figured that we’d be seated soon. But the couple turned back and came over to us. Their table could seat four. “Instead of waiting,” they said, “Why don’t you join us?” And we did. And we had a fabulous time. Interesting, smart and friendly conversation, instead of just boring same-old us.
Get the giggles. I certainly think that kids should be well-behaved in stores and restaurants. But they are still kids. There’s nothing I love more than to see them collapsing in hilarity. Join in. Laugh your ass off – loudly – in public – once in a while. The overwhelming majority of the people around you will instantly feel wonderful too. And for those few who don’t like it? Holy crap, who cares about those grouches?
Be a generous driver. I live in Connecticut, which is sort of a mecca for high-strung, stressed-out overachievers. (Sorry, Connecticut – I love you, but it’s true.) We are impatient worriers, with our minds always somewhere in the future, and it shows in much of what we do. We think we’re normal. A few years ago, I went on a business trip to Portland, Oregon. I had a rental car and a map (no reassuring, confident GPS voice). Trying to find my way around the city, I often found myself in the wrong lane – needing to turn at the light, or trying to get to the fast-approaching exit ramp. And, My God!, folks just stopped and let me into their lane. Over and over again. They weren’t shouting, “Damn Tourist!” No. They were smiling. “Over here, I’ll help you make a left turn from the right hand lane. No problem.” They made me feel less flustered about driving in a strange city. I came away loving that place and those kind people. And back here in nervous Connecticut, I let someone into my lane on a regular basis.
Go ahead, Dear. In a similar vein, let an old person check out ahead of you in the supermarket.Even if they are slow. Especially if they are slow. What’s your hurry, anyway?
Be opinionated. In a nice way. I always let my dressing-room neighbor know when I think she looks great. I don’t ever say she looks bad; or say she looks nice when she doesn’t. But when I see success – I say so. Salespeople have a vested interest in telling you that you look fabulous. But when a stranger loves what you are trying on – that’s sweet.
Show some PDA. Circling back to the title of this post, Let’s do it – a little bit anyway – in the road. I think we need to see a little more public displays of affection. How can we be okay with folks staring at their phones, but not with seeing them actually kiss other human beings? I am no voyeur, but I LIKE to see people kiss, and hug, and hold hands, and cuddle. And there are other, subtler shows of affection that are just plain heart-warming. Shirt-tail holding when navigating a crowd, for example. Or a hand tucked in a lover’s back pocket. So kiss a little in public. It may actually make you feel a little more loving in private.
Summer is finally here!
I love Summer. And it makes me remember the Drive-In. So here is a reprise from four years ago.
You know what I miss?
I miss the Drive-In.
Drive-Ins were such a weird invention. Some nut-case (actually his name was Hollingshead) way back in the twenties decided that it would be a great idea to sit in your car and watch a movie.
It took about twenty years to perfect the screen and the sound… and boy, was it far from perfected. But I loved it.
When I was a little kid, we used to go to the Plainville Drive-In. We’d get there early, because we wanted a good parking space, and because they had a great playground. The playground had trampolines. Oh my God, that was the coolest thing.
My little brother could not figure out the trampoline. He was barely more than a toddler, and he couldn’t jump with both feet at the same time. It was hysterical–for me anyway. He was the baby boy after three girls in a row (me being number three), and everyone adored him. So naturally I was delighted by his stupidity.
I loved the movies but sometimes it was a toss-up whether I would watch the movie or jump on the trampoline all night. (My mother solved that dilemma for me.)
Most kids wore their pajamas to the Drive-In, which I thought was especially festive. Like Christmas Eve in the middle of summer. But my mother didn’t like us to go out in pajamas. Sometimes I could sweet-talk her into letting me change into pajamas once the movie started. Then I’d pretend I had to use the restroom, so I could walk around outside in my PJs.
We’d watch the movie – usually a double feature with a long intermission (filled with dancing popcorn and hot dogs and cups of coca-cola to promote the overpriced concession stand) through our scrubbed, but still blurry, windshield. Sometimes we watched through raindrops. There was a post with a speaker that Dad precariously attached to the windshield. The tinny sound was awful and fantastic at the same time. And there was always someone who would drive off with the speaker still attached, and they’d rip it right off the pole. I loved that part.
If you opened the windows you were invaded by mosquitoes. If you didn’t, the windshield would steam up. My sisters and I would play tic-tac-toe on the side windows. Of course, there were some cars that were extra steamy.
We saw some wonderful movies at the Drive-In. I think so anyway. I can only recall one. We went to see “Hatari” with John Wayne. My Daddy loved The Duke.
It wasn’t playing at my beloved Plainville Drive-In. We went to the Watertown Drive-In, which we had never been to before. My father couldn’t find the place and we drove around for a long time, so naturally my father had to stop the car twice so I could throw up. We got to the movies late, and my mother let me watch standing outside the car in the cool air. I could hear the sound from the big speakers blaring from the concession stand. Baby elephants followed around a very pretty actress.
When I was sixteen, the Drive-In changed. And changed me.
I went to see “Two For The Road” with Audrey Hepburn – and with Kenny. My mother reluctantly gave me permission. Kenny’s mother did not, but he was embarrassed to tell me, and so he snuck out of the house. We double-dated with kids I don’t remember at all. I do remember the movie. It was exceptional, and it’s still one of my all-time favorite movies.
And then the second feature came on. I don’t remember it any more than I remember the other kids in the car.
The windshield steamed.
Bye Bye, Trampoline.
It’s another Father’s Day.
My Dad was a family man.
I could also say that he was a war hero, a self-taught engineer, and a handsome, intelligent, and athletic man. He could swing a golf club and he could swing my mother around the dance floor.
But mostly he was a family man.
He loved my mother and us kids, and his own mother and sisters and brother and his cousins, nieces and nephews, and my mother’s family too. And later, his children’s families – our spouses and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren. When he would say, as he did often, “Let’s call everybody and have a party,” he meant, let’s call all our relatives and the friends whom he loved like family.
Last week I learned one small new thing about him. My mother and I were talking about movies as we ate lunch, and she said, “You know what your father’s favorite movie was?”
I thought she would say “Patton” – because my father and I watched that movie together and we loved it, and he told me about General George S. Patton and General Omar Bradley. How much he admired them both. Patton for his fearlessness and genius in war. Bradley for his humanity. “Us soldiers were in awe of Patton,” he said. “But we would follow Bradley anywhere.”
But my mother surprised me.
“The African Queen,” she said. “We must have seen that movie 100 times. Every time it was on, your dad would say, ‘We have to watch this.’ Every time.”
So he was not just a war hero. He was a war hero and a romantic.
When I reflect on my father, it seems I always return to the things that he was not. The traits that were just not in his character.
Like how often he swore: Never.
How he complained about his job: Never.
How he would be in a bad mood: Never.
How he lost his temper without provocation: Never.
How he disparaged other people: Never.
How he shirked his responsibility: Never.
How he was rude to a waiter or salesperson: Never.
How he missed Mass on Sunday: Never.
How he told his 3 daughters that girls couldn’t do something: Never.
How he told his son that winning was everything: Never.
How he fought with my mother: Never.
How he was unkind to strangers: Never.
Dad died five years ago, at 88. A nice and happy long life. I don’t believe he had any regrets. He passed away with only my mother at his side, which is what they both wanted.
I sat with him the day before, though, and I rather knew it was the last time. He knew too, I think. When I rose to leave he put his hand on his heart.
“The African Queen” is my favorite movie too.
And my hand is on my heart.
I have mentioned before my mild obsession (Can an obsession be mild? Is that an oxymoron?) with unsolved mysteries. (Eureka, Sort Of)
I’ve always wanted to solve some great mystery or cold case.
In part, because I always like to show how smart I am. I was one of those obnoxious kids in grade school whose hand was always waving frantically in the air. (Well, OK, that was high school too. And college. And grad school.)
But mostly, because I am one of those types that just NEEDS to know. I hate a mystery with no answer.
Just TELL me.
Why, for example, when suspected murderers are dying, why don’t they just TELL us? I felt that way with Dr. Sam Shepard, who I thought was almost certainly innocent. Of course, it would have been even more convincing had their REAL murderer given us a death-bed confession.
Or Lizzie Borden, who on the other hand, I think was probably guilty. She’d been acquitted. She was already pretty much a social pariah in Fall River, so she had no reputation to lose. So why didn’t she just tell us?
I have a couple of minor, trivial, mysteries I will share in my next post, but I am in a serious mood today, and so I want to share a few important mysteries.
I am a Conspiracy Nut.
Yes, that’s what people call people like me.
I’m not one of those true overachieving nuts who believes EVERYTHING is a big conspiracy.
I have just a few very specific conspiracy beliefs.
Perhaps it stems from the fact that some momentous world events happened when I was at my most impressionable. Those experiences that made me question authority for the first time. And understand, for the first time, that Authority is not always admirable or honest.
I don’t want to be too preachy or morbid. And I am no expert. So I won’t go off on a huge rant about the numerous unanswered questions or inconsistencies. I won’t beat the drum for thousands of pages or millions of words.
Let me just pose three questions. One question on each awful puzzle that has haunted me for decades. That may be demonstration enough. A few simple questions to represent the hundreds that continue to plague me.
President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. His murder was the most horrific thing most people had ever experienced. And I was only twelve. I watched events unfold, as I stood before our black-and-white TV, with my hands to my mouth. I saw Lee Harvey Oswald killed. I have only witnessed death once since… in 53 years. Two deaths. One a cousin, in her hospital room. One – an assassin on live TV.
There are many unanswered questions. I’ve read dozens of books, probably hundreds of articles. Most people who believe the lone gunman theory think that those of us who don’t are in denial. That we just cannot accept that one miserable unknown human being could have the power to change history.
But I am not naive. I am not an idealist. (Well, OK, perhaps somewhat of an idealist.) I do not think Oswald was a patsy in the true sense of the word. I believe he was involved. It’s the “lone” part of the “lone gunman” theory that worries me.
Here’s my one single JFK question. How does a young ex-marine who defects to the Soviet Union in the height of the Cold War– how is it that he was able to return so easily 2 1/2 years later? Why did the FBI or CIA appear to have no interest in him?
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered in 1968. I was 17. He had changed the world significantly in just a few years, and he was not yet 40 years old. He was shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The convicted murdered was James Earl Ray, a petty criminal and avowed racist.He recanted his confession only a few days after pleading guilty.
Here’s my Dr. King question: Ray was captured in London, with a false passport. He had escaped through Canada to the UK and was attempting to travel to white-ruled Rhodesia. In 1968, air travel was still extremely expensive – out of the reach of most Americans. Where did a loser like Ray get the money for his escape?
Only a few months after Dr. King was assassinated, Bobby Kennedy was shot as his entourage moved through the kitchen at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after the California Democratic Primary. The assassin was Sirhan Sirhan, a young Palestinian (whose family was Christian, by the way) who may have been truly deranged. He fired his 22 even as he was wrestled into submission by members of Kennedy’s group. He emptied the gun.
Here’s my RFK question. Sirhan’s gun held 8 bullets. Kennedy was hit three times, but only 2 bullets were recovered, with one supposedly lost in the ceiling. Five were recovered from other injured people. That’s seven bullets recovered. So there is just one bullet unaccounted for (the ceiling bullet). So why were there extra holes in the ceiling and the walls? One door-frame was photographed with 2 holes circled by investigators. By some accounts, bullets had been recovered from these or other holes. Sirhan was firing wildly as he was subdued. But that is one hell of a lot of ricochet.
I know this is a crazy atypical post for me. I wasn’t sure whether to even publish it. But I’ve been thinking so much about the passage of time. In the not-too-distant future, all the folks who were witness to these events will be dead. And perhaps no one will care much about unanswered questions.
I hope the interest in Truth will still matter.