Category Archives: L: Misc Stuff

Remembering

Facebook is a lot of things to a lot of different people. Endless variations on a common theme. A surprising number of people use it to transmit and share the minutia of their lives. What we had for dinner, where we had dinner, was it good, or not so good. If it was good, I’ll probably see a picture of it.
I don’t mean to criticize. If those at either end of these conversations find it entertaining or enjoyable, who am I to say it’s not a good thing. It’s just not MY thing.

I use Facebook for diverse reasons. I belong to several groups. A couple of them discuss and share pictures of the world wars. Others share techniques for building plastic models of the various mechanisms of those wars, land, sea, and air. Some discuss techniques, with examples and tutorials the various methods of technical illustration. Others do the same for photography. Among others which are my things.

A large portion of Facebook is used for history, our memories, and the nostalgia created in part by those memories. I enjoy that part of it, and as I get older I also take increasing pleasure in seeing pictures of the various children that occasionally touch my life. To use a popular phrase, which I’m not particularly fond of, it’s all good.

Another of the ways that I use Facebook is little rambles like this one which again falls into the memory and nostalgia category. The nostalgia we hold for certain times in our lives is a funny thing. At the remembered time, often there was nothing special at all, it’s just the way it was, and we thought nothing of it. Looking back, and doing the remembering, we are different people than we were then. We have more experience, we’ve seen more of life than we knew at the time we are remembering, we are, hopefully wiser, and certainly older. We look at a photograph of a 1950s living room, and get a nice warm glowwy feeling remembering being a child in such a setting. In truth, the living room we remember is also part of the house in which you perhaps once broke your arm, or had the flu, or had to study when you wanted to watch Roy Rogers.

But our minds work in a wonderfully selective way. An old Doonesbury cartoon suggested that Ronald Reagan had an optical condition which permitted him only to see the world in reverse, and through a rose-colored filter. Ha ha. But I think we all have a bit of that in us, and it is a blessing.

I’ve been in a nostalgic mood these past few days, remembering a time which wasn’t so good at all, but which I now nonetheless remember fondly. Weird, huh? 40 years ago this month, I had been in Milwaukee for a two and half years, and for two years I had been in a relationship, one that was falling apart. A popular song at the time, from Barbra Streisand’s “Streisand Superman” album titled “My Heart Belongs To Me” was, in retrospect, the soundtrack of my month of October in the year 1977.

Before the month was over, the relationship was as dead as was ever going to be, which is to say, completely. Among the ways I reacted to this reality was to get out my albums, and make a cassette tape to play in my car. (yes I said cassette tape. Remember this was 40 years ago). Using the Barbra Streisand song as a theme, it was a cassette of similar such songs. Without realizing it, I had musically mapped out the winter; through the depths of despair and up again, closing with a couple of positive, upbeat songs at the finish. The final verse from a song added to the list a couple of years later tell the story quite succinctly.

“When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long
And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong.
Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snows,
Lies the seed that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose.”
(Bette Midler, “The Rose” – from the movie of the same name)

There’s something to be said for the notion behind Neil Diamond’s, “Song Sung Blue”, which “makes you feel bad and yet good at the same time”. That tape got me through the winter of my discontent, and onto the spring of 1978, which turned out to be a pretty good time, fulfilling the promise of the last couple of songs on my tape, taken from Melissa Manchester’s album “Better Days, and Happy Endings”.

May all of your soundtracks end with a happy song.

“Titanic”

Sitting around on a grey day, thinking. Musing, one might say, I recalled something about the movie Titanic which has bothered me ever since I first saw it.

The central female character, Rose – known to some as “Grandma” – reunites at the end of the film with little Leonardo, whom she knew many years prior – aboard the ill-fated ship – for all of several days.

When she passed on, the filmmaker made the point of panning her photos, showing that after surviving the sinking, she went on to an adventurous, long, and full, life; riding horses, and flying aeroplanes, and such, as well as having children, and grandchildren.

So when she passed on, to the grand reunion, where the hell was Grandpa?

Protesting Protests

I am writing this post adhering to what I call the “Russ Rule”. That is, as my friend Russ has advised, to not prowl the Internet finding clever graphics and bumper sticker slogans with which we agree, and sharing them. As Russ has said, “we can find those things for ourselves. Give us rather your own thoughts”. I’m attempting herein to do just that.

The current hullabaloo over NFL players not standing for the national anthem, and thus damaging the standing of the league, and those players, in the eyes of many, was started by Colin Kaepernick. His stated purpose, which to my knowledge is not changed, is to protest abuse, and murder, of innocent African-Americans, by evil police.

Were Kaepernick’s view a representation of reality, I might also be tempted to not stand for the national anthem, and the flag, of a country in which such a thing were allowed. But, and a big but indeed, is that that belief is based on a false narrative. One proven repeatedly to simply not be true. Colin Kaepernick, in my opinion is a dupe, without enough talent to again be hired by an NFL team, he retains his relevance in the Kardashian fashion by simply being famous for being famous.

As for today’s crop of “activists”, they refuse to stand for the anthem under the banner of the vague, undefined, and mostly misunderstood “Social Justice”. Doing so they in fact achieve the one thing which they say they are not doing, and don’t intend, disrespecting the anthem, and by extension the flag, the nation, the military, law enforcement, and in fact all of the citizens who make and have made this country great.

I say undefined and misunderstood because when asked, any one of these protesters will offer an explanation which says virtually nothing. Standing for social justice they say, as if that alone says it all.

I think it is well to note that when the NFL players take the field, the lowest paid among them is paid $465,000 per year, to mostly sit on the bench. They all have degrees (largely in fields of study such as Physical Education Theory, and such) from fine universities, where tutors walked them through classes to assure their eligibility to play football. I’m still searching for the social justice.

This rant may piss off a few of my friends, but under the flag to which I pledge allegiance I have as much right as any other to voice my opinion.

Robert Hall

Whenever I see the old references to Robert Hall at various “remember this” Facebook pages, two things come to mind. First, the jingle

“School bells ring and children sing,

it’s back to Robert Hall again.

Mother knows for better clothes,

it’s back to Robert Hall again.”

How many of us remember hearing that from the tinny speakers of an 8” or 10”, or perhaps even 12” TV? And hating it!

I certainly did, for despite the fact that it signaled the coming of fall (and I do so love the autumn), hearing it also meant that the school year — which for me was at CM Bardwell school — was imminent.

In The Day Calendar, Part One, I recall the thoughts and emotions of the last day of school each year, which along with Christmas was one of the year’s best days. Returning to school at summer’s end evoked, to put it mildly, what was then, and in memory is now, the Yin to that Yang.

The second thing I recall is a scene from somewhat later television in which Arthur Carlson, for some reason, grabbed Venus Flytrap by the arm of his jacket. Venus in response snatched his arm away, brushing and smoothing the fabric, and exclaiming, “Hey, watch it. This ain’t no Robert Hall”.

Funny, after all these years, the things that stick in our minds.

My Father

(This is a bit late – actually my Facebook post for Father’s Day this Year)

Mother’s Day this year has come and gone, though in some ways every day should be Mother’s Day. But that aside, before I comment on Father’s Day, I want to affirm that children of all ages love and honor their fathers; from my three year old grand-niece who loves her daddy beyond measure, to older children, and teenage boys and girls, to adults young, and not so young.

But I am going to speak of my father and his generation. Known, rightly I think, as The Greatest Generation, these survivors of the depression went on to serve, by the millions, in a war they wanted no part of, but went anyway because it was the right thing to do. “A dirty job that had to be done”, as the saying went at the time.

Growing up in the shadow of that war, I could never lose sight of the fact that these were the guys who had stormed the beaches, who experienced horrendous naval battles, or survived terrifying flak and enemy fighters of the air war, or fought in the dense, rotting jungles of the South Pacific, or had defended their ships from swarms of kamikazes, or huddled near frozen in a foxhole while German artillery blew apart the world around them. And STILL emerged victorious.

And after fighting to secure the peaceful environment which we, the children of the baby boom took for granted, they managed somehow to put it behind them (or at least keep it out of sight) and came home to a new and better life. And they came home to be our Dads. And to teach us to throw a ball, or catch a fish, or turn a wrench, and how to act, and how to grow up and be a good person. And it was Dad, along with Mom of course, who was the foundation, and the epicenter of our world as we did so.

So on this Father’s Day saying Thanks seems like not nearly enough. I love you Dad, I miss you still, and I owe you everything.

My Mother’s Geraniums

On Aurora’s Eastside, near Copley Hospital, in a neighborhood which no longer exists, once stood the house in which I grew up. On either side of the steps of our abbreviated front porch, my mother had two large decorative concrete urns in which she planted geraniums. Bright red geraniums, with a spike plant in the center for accent, and a bit of ivy trailing down from the edges.

I always loved those geraniums, and a few years ago I started the tradition of planting geraniums of my own. While I don’t have decorative urns, but rather a clay-colored plastic pot from Menard’s, I duplicate, as well as I can, my mother’s geraniums.

Being distracted this year by the ability to plant flowers in actual dirt, those in pots got a bit of a late start, but once begun seem to be doing well. Picking out this year’s plants at the flower factory, I was careless and among my bright red geraniums, I had inadvertently selected a white one as well. I thought about changing it out, but decided to leave it as it was. A decision I’m happy with.

Of my flowers, potted or free-range, I think the geraniums are my favorite for several reasons. One, they are just pretty to look at. Two, when I’m outside I can rub my finger along the stems, and smell that geranium smell. (I do this with the tomatoes, too).

Three, it turns out that the single white blossom adds a whimsy to the array, which I enjoy. And lastly, and perhaps most importantly, when I’m sitting at my computer, and look out through the patio door at my geraniums, they always remind me of my mother.

 

Hollyhocks

You don’t see hollyhocks much anymore. Or at least I don’t. Oh, I know there are a number of varieties, none of which seem to be prevalent in the areas I frequent. And to me they’re not true hollyhocks anyway. I’m talking about the old-fashioned kind, which when you’re a kid, are much taller than you are, and seemed to grow not so much in gardens but around garages in the alleys of Aurora’s east side.

In some ways, alleys were more interesting to the kids of my time, that is to say the 1950s. Well, the boys anyway. There was always something fascinating in the alleys that captured our interest to a greater degree than what could be seen from the sidewalk out front. Backyards, garages and workshops — on our block in the mid-50s there were even two guys building a small airplane in a one car garage. Fascinating.

And gardens. If you like flowers, which I did, the alleys offered a greater floral variety. There was an elderly lady a couple of houses to the east of ours on Weston Ave, a Mrs. Hayes, as I recall, who had a wonderful garden which extended from the back of her house all the way to, of course, the alley. When walking the alley behind our house – perhaps on an errand to the Buy-Rite Market for a pound of oleo, or some other commodity which my mother was out of — I could pause at her garden and enjoy the sights.

And directly across the alley from Mrs. Hayes’s garden was a garage festooned on either side with hollyhocks, the real old-fashioned kind. The kind with big round fuzzy leaves, and flowers which, as I was once shown, could be picked off, the petals turned down and held, transforming the blossom into a ballerina. I didn’t care much about ballet dancers at the time, but I thought the trick was pretty neat.

Now, in my new little house, I have the ability at last to plant my own flowers. And while it may not be a designer’s dream, my little plots and spaces contain mostly things that I like, or fondly remember, such as hollyhocks.

I was pleased to discover in the last couple of days that while still tiny, the plants are already producing flowers. Since I remember hollyhocks as being taller than the eight or nine-year-old me, this is something unique in my experience. The picture I have herein attached is the very first of my hollyhock flowers, and I’m proud of it. I am also pleased that this particular plant, the runt of the litter so to speak, was the first to bloom. I’m looking forward to many more.