The Old Warrior’s Birthday

Today would have been my father’s birthday and I would have called him on the phone to wish him well. He wasn’t a talker.  His answers were often grunts or a strange chortle which I could once imitate but not since his death.

Dad with his good buddy, Captain Wug

My early memories of him were brutal. He could not tolerate weakness.  Thus, we were never given the option to quit on any project we started. We didn’t have to be the best but we had to finish. And generally without taking a break.  For this reason, many hobbies other people enjoy, such as skiing, ice skating and camping I hate.  Illness was also something he attributed to weakness. The only time I remember him going into a hospital was when he dropped a hammer on his big toe and it swelled up so badly he couldn’t put on a pair of shoes which meant no skiing or hunting.  As he got older,  whenever he said of a medical procedure “that wasn’t so bad” I vowed to never go through that particular procedure while conscious.

 

Our house in rural Michigan

Because he was a hunter and hung his dead animals in the garage to bleed out, all three of his kids ended up practically vegetarians. When I refused to eat any animal whose sad eyes had stared out at me, I got slapped and sent to bed hungry. My younger brother and sister managed to choke down the venison and rabbit on their plates but only because they didn’t want the same thing to happen to them. 

JFK is the first president I remember and he was young and charismatic but in my house, he was the Anti-Christ. During the Nixon years, one of Dad’s hunting buddies was profiled on the news show Sixty Minutes because as sheriff of a small town in rural Nevada, he locked up black folks and long-haired hippies just for the sin of driving through his town. Dad still went hunting with him.  On the other, he always treated African Americans, jews, and asian people with respect and worshipped the Native American culture.  As I mentioned in a previous post, he often said that when he became a burden to the tribe, he would disappear into the desert just like an Indian warrior.  

When I was a young adult my parents split and my father quickly remarried.  By that time, my mother had quit the Republican Women’s Club and was veering back towards her working class upbringing.  A few years after my father’s remarriage, his new wife threw a sixtieth birthday party for him and called it “Equal Rights for Whites.”  Apparently she wanted to air her displeasure that a black man (albeit Martin Luther King Jr) would dare to be born on my father’s birthday.  I did not think it was funny.  I did not attend. 

But, because we were denied a television until I was around fourteen, I have a fair knowledge of classical music and, if given the title of a Broadway song, can tell you what musical it is from and probably sing all the lyrics. That was a great gift from my father. I also obsessively complete tasks ahead of me. I almost never leave something undone.

RIP Carol Channing, my favorite Dolly.

But what I will remember most as I careen towards senility is the time we got lost in a ghetto in downtown Oakland and some homies in a lowrider next to Dad’s car tried to provoke us whiteys with middle fingers and curse words and Dad looked over at the car and said calmly, “those are probably some of my students.” It was a joke. He was the dean of mechanical engineering at the University of Nevada, a primarily all white school at the time. Perhaps I owe my oddball sense of humor to him.

I don’t think I’d want to relive my childhood but he raised us the way he was raised.  In fact, I suspect his life was far tougher.  Anyway, I’ll miss calling him today.

I should mention that it’s also the tenth anniversary of Sully’s infamous landing on the Hudson River.

Becoming a fruit fly

I dreamt that I died but instead of being free to shape shift into some other existence, a fruit fly or whatever, my ex-husband sucked me into a hologram and made me sing White Christmas alongside Bing Crosby.

He would try to do that because he’s a Mormon now and they own their wives forever. Or so they think.

According to the news show VICE (HBO)  it’s not enough that images of dead celebrities are being used to sell products, now they’re being “reanimated” to do things they may not have wanted to do.  Like sing White Christmas with Michael Buble.

Oh Gawd. Save me from a show filled with reanimated celebrities.  I’d never be able to get to sleep.

No, no, no. I loved them but let them go!

Believe it or not, until recently the legal ramifications of digital necromancy were somewhat fuzzy and the estates of several dead celebs  had to sue to protect their star’s legacy.  And they didn’t always win. In the 1970s a judge on the California Supreme Court actually ruled that after Bela Lugosi died, he no longer owned his “personality rights.”  I guess that judge thought the dead don’t care.  I’ve got news for him.

Today, companies have to gain the permission of a dead celeb’s estate before they exploit his or her “personality” to sell products. But what if a celeb dies intestate?  Whoever winds up in control could do whatever they want.  I’m reminded of Stieg Larsson, the author of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, whose estate ended up in the hands of his estranged father and brother.  According to the reviews, the latest installment of the series sadly does not do justice to Larsson’s legacy.

Hologram of Ronald Reagan.

Poor Ronald Reagan has to give the same speeches over and over again and again at his presidential library.  He was scary enough in the flesh.  Seeing him reanimated would definitely bring on the nightmares.

One good thing about not being a celebrity is no one will try to reanimate me after I’m gone.  I’ll be allowed to die and whatever energy force resides within can either scatter to the winds or find another vessel.  

As a non-celebrity I’ll also never be on the following cruel and sadistic lists:

  • Stars Who Aged Badly
  • Stars Nobody Wants to Work With
  • Stars Whose Spouses Are Unattractive

This picture is from “Stars with Bad Mug Shots.” I have no idea who it is but she kind of looks like me in the morning!

And don’t even get me started on wax museums. 

The Kitty Sleeps in the Sun

Or so he pretends, always with one eye at the ready and ears erect. And in that same lazy, hazy way I welcome 2019. 

I never thought I’d live to see this year, not because I had some kind of death wish but because I grew up reading dystopian science fiction  and thought by this time we’d either all be dead or cyborgs. Somehow we managed for forestall our inevitable ruin. The question now seems to be, for how long.

But enough of the doom and gloom. You may have noticed that this blog is undergoing an identity crisis. Marketing experts would caution against changing identities at this point (5 years into blogging) but pooh on caution.  Throw it to the wind, I say.

The title “Saying Nothing in Particular” was inspired by this song.

My husband acts as if his balls are going to shrivel up and fall off whenever I play my  Donovan CDs but his dreamy ballads are my respite from a cruel world.  Even his more serious songs “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and “Season of the Witch” will roust me from my darkest moods.  So, if you have a minute, drift along the coast with the Tinker and the Crab.  Speak to no one in particular but happily. Mankind has defied the predictions of the best minds and the kitty is sleeping in the sun.

May this next year bring you health and joy.

 

 

Except for the Dead Guy and Minus a Few Cousins

I’ve been re-editing a book I wrote and published via Booktrope a few years before they went out of business, The Graduation Present. Of the plot, Colm Herron wrote:

A hapless hopeless romantic American girl called Riley O’Tannen heads for Europe to get a taste of the old world and instead encounters her drunken uncle who keeps a mistress, her randy aunt who keeps a gigolo and a dead CIA man whose boss is a raving homosexual.

Which is what happened decades ago except for the dead guy and minus a few cousins.  Such is the dilemma when your write a “semi-autobiographical” piece.

I did travel to Germany unprepared for the realities of life in an occupied country.  I did have to pry my uncle from the bar every night and listen to my aunt sing the praises of her lover’s magical tongue “oh what it could do …”  My uncle’s boss was rumored to be a CIA operative, and he was a dead ringer in looks and manner for Truman Capote.  But, as to the rest, well, I could say time has warped my memory but the truth is, a bit of imagination was applied.  Perhaps too much.

When you write a book with at least one character recognizable to family and friends, be prepared.  

“You made me out to be quite the putz,” my uncle complained shortly after the book was published. Ironically if he’d read through to the end and not just the first couple of chapters he would have realized that Riley O’Tannen was the putz and not him. Still it gave me pause.  I know writers who will not base a character on someone they know until that person was dead and gone. Even then, it’s difficult.  

“And how about that evil burgermeister. I don’t remember him,” my uncle continued.

“I made him up.”

“Then that other story about me pimping you out for dinner…”

“The truth.  You said ‘look at all those lonely officers. They’d love to take a pretty girl to dinner. Why should I have to feed you all the time?'”

Number one travel book when I first went to Europe.

“I don’t remember.” Sadly he didn’t mention the people who were missing from the story, my young cousins neither of whom survived unscathed from that time. When you tell a semi-autobiographical story those are the choices you face.  Who to spare and who to expose.  Uncle Bob, who now preaches the gospel of Trump in a Walmart parking lot down in Tampa, has repented and been saved. He’s never without an eight ounce glass of gin and makes gross jokes about women’s body parts, but in the church of the almighty Trump all you need to do is speak in tongues and all is forgiven.  Plus, he was born with a teflon hide.

Happy Hour at the Officer’s Club, Worms Germany 1970

And the dead man?  He’s here with me now. He sits with eyes tunneling into the night sky as we ride through Switzerland time and time again and see no stars, just a cold and apathetic landscape. Toward the end, he’d been relegated to a seat at the table reserved for those with frozen boots who couldn’t move on. They are the best people for a writer to know.

I relieved him of his misery.  I killed him.  I let him die in a place where he’d known happy times and not in a Veteran’s hospital. And that’s what writers do. But should we?

Diamond box

From a young poet.

tin hats

Mouse of mine,
I’ve made for you a maze.

Impenetrable diamond box beneath the earth,
swaddled in the sweltering magma like
the immortal star under a blanket
you have always been.

So safe, warm and concealed
beneath the shifting plates
the winding roadways,
shivering mountains.

As far as the roads of Agartha will take you
from the violent apes and their
precious gates
to heaven and hell.

Monkey of mine,
there are hot springs and peaceful beings-
as many ripe kiwis as a boy could eat.

Mr. Golden Sun is just a sweet song away
with a rainbow necklace that you can wear
and a glowing crystal crown
from the icy end of a meteor
for your precious royal head.

When it is time to sleep,
you and me and daddy makes three
will pillow fight with fluffy clouds,
flying like jets that will never cradle missiles.

We will crash…

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The Spoon Apocalypse

My paternal grandmother believed that at some point in the near future the world would be bereft of spoons.  To prepare her grandchildren for the coming apocalypse, we all received spoons for Christmas, that is until Cousin George, then over six foot eight, pooped on her prophesy. I believe his exact words were “Get your head out of the vodka bottle Grandmother.”

“Oh what a wonderful spoon, Grandmother! Now I’m prepared for the Spoon Apocalypse.

Through all my travels and relocations, my spoon collection has not fared well but I still have the first one she ever sent me. It’s a sterling silver teaspoon with an etching of the Moorhead Minnesota Public Library.  I always assumed it was just something she picked up at some antique store, but through the miracle of the internet, I believe it had some other meaning to her besides the spoon prophesy.

Moorhead was my Grandmother’s home until her father died and her mother married The Judge. Probably a wise thing for a young widow with two small children to do but The Judge was a controlling nasty pants who didn’t allow his stepchildren to talk of their father or paternal aunts, uncles and cousins still living in Moorhead. That town always remained a life that could have been if not for the Spanish flu.  As a freshman in college when the library opened, she probably also spent a lot of time there.  At that time, the University of North Dakota at Fargo catered to the study of animal husbandry and improvement of soy bean crops and not to the study of something so useless as English literature.  So the spoon wasn’t just something she wrapped in foil and sent to her granddaughter (or maybe it was and I’m just a fruitcake)

After Grandmother’s death my aunt sent me this odd assortment of her utensils. Note anything odd?

 

There’s only one fork and who needs that many butter knives? Or pickle forks.

I don’t know what to do with all those spoons. Perhaps play Spoons.  Have you ever heard of that game?  Apparently it’s also known as Pig and Tongue and it is some kind of variation of Musical Chairs.  The winners of Spoons take a spoon from the middle of the table and the winners of Pig, fart.  (Not really they just touch the end of their noses. Don’t ask.) The winners of Tongue stick their tongues out.  I imagine it’s a game old Judge Nasty Pants would have loved.

Maybe I’ll give the spoons to the Spoon Lady!  Any odd things you’ve gotten as Christmas presents that made sense many years later?

 

Certainty of death, no chance for survival

Thanksgiving night we watched the final episode of the Lord of the Rings as we ate the crab and potato salad.  When the trilogy first debuted, our home was where stockings were opened Christmas morning and then we all walked down to the Art Deco theater at the bottom of the hill to watch whatever had just released.  

We began this Xmas tradition in 1983 with The Christmas Story, a low budget picture that was not expected to do well at the box office and is now a holiday classic. We’d had a rough year and that movie was the perfect distraction.

The next year was even worse.  After a failed attempt at merriment, we hiked down the hill to watch Ghostbusters. 

I can’t remember all the movies we saw in the ensuing years. Generally silly flicks. None were able to make us laugh until we cried. None were as cathartic as the first two. 

By the way, who’s your favorite character in Ghostbusters?  Mine’s the wise-cracking receptionist played by Annie Potts. I love that gal.

To my teenage friends and I, the book The Lord of The Rings was the holy gospel of Middle Earth. It was where we were meant to be and not the Reno High School biology lab dissecting frogs. We’d heard about the analogies to WWII and the Nazis, but had no real understanding of the horrors of concentration camps or the ability of power to leech the soul from a human being. We just wanted to escape the mundanity of our lives.

Now LOTR seems like a warning and is too close to comfort to exit the theater refreshed.  I think we’ll see a comedy instead.  Any suggestions?