Friday, April 30, 2010

Nevermind what the sign says

We'll just sit her like the big old girls we are with our legs crossed like our mothers...

In honor of tomorrow's Kenticky Derby



To me the women don't look like they have horse tails so much as they have squirrel tails...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

2 gr-8 2 B 4-gotten

As many of you probably don’t know, I at one time worked as a legal aid for an attorney who provided legal access to Youths who had been adjudicated felons in Ohio and were housed in Juvenile Correction Institutions.

Because of matters involving confidentiality, I can’t tell you anything about the youths, other than to say that I dealt with them according to my position. I can’t mention them by name, first, last or otherwise. And I can’t tell you anything about their issues (even if I didn't mention them by name or aliases) because frankly, it would be improper and it could get me in a boatload of trouble.  Frankly, I have shut most of them out of my mind. When you leave a job like that, you put it all behind you because that’s what you do.

What I can tell you is that one of items that I found most fascinating was something kept at the Department of Youth Services – the "yearbooks" from the 1960s from the Girls Institution. These were on display at one of the facilities where I was seated for the meetings with the youths.  Because you can't take anything like a crossword puzzle or a cell phone into the facilities, all you have to kill time while you are wait for the next intervgiew is to look at whats on display around you.

The books were everything that you would expect to find in a High School Yearbook. There were pictures of girls in this year of school, and that year, all dressed in their finest, grouped according to their grade level. There were pictures of these girls in choral robes, in their gym cloths and in their school cloths.   Sewing class, Office Procedures Class and Drama - all covered is stark black and white photographs. There were even "prom" photos - the girls were paired with boys from the now closed male industrial school across the road.
And like all yearbooks, there were girls that turned on the 500-watt smiles for the camera, and then there were the girls who just stared at the camera like deer in the headlights. You could tell who the brown “nosers” were and who wanted to be popular and who could rip your head off your body, if push came to shove. Everything was as normal as could be.

But there was just one thing that was off about this yearbook – and after looking at them it dawned on me – no last names.

When a youth is convicted as a youth of a crime, the justice system believes that Juveniles, if retrained to rejoin society, can make a go of it in the world. So, except for those who commit the most heinous crimes, when they get out, or turn 21, they get a fresh start. So if their names had been in the books, its something that could follow them into adulthood, thus no last names. Just pictures of Doreen, Mary, Sally Thelma, Dorcas, Ann, Maria, Melvina, Janice…

There were autograph pages, but these were blank.  That got me wondering what would these girls say to one and other on these pages, because it isn't like these were the times that they would treasuer for a lifetime.  Would one write "To Flinch - Next time I see you in the "caf" I'll cut you," or "One day we'll look back at this time and remind each other how special solitary was in the "pit"."

This got me wondering – did any of these albums ever leave the facilities when these girls left state custody. Did “Dorcas” ever take her copy home with her when her time for gumball theft ended? And could she if even if she wanted to?  Because one of the conditions of most parole sentences is that you can’t cavort or mingle with other convicted felons when you are "on the outs" these "friendships" should have ended immediatly upon discharge.  It isn’t like you could share the “good times” with just anyone on the outs.

Of course, Twilia, Judith, Donna  and Tercela might have formed a bond so strong that no threat of returning to lock up could have stopped them from a reunion and a broken beer bottle fight on the sly.

After pondering these things, I went back looked again at the faces of the girls in their groups.  Looking closer you could see a lot more than just on that first cursory view.  Some of the girls stared into the camera, their faces stoic, their eyes tired, unamused by the charade.  Other faces looked bemused, as if they knew that this moment of normalcy was as fleeting as was their ability to wear street clothes.  In every group there was at least one girl who was white, very pretty, lovely hair, dressed nicely.  This girl almost always smiled so brightly and with so much "Hollywood" appeal that you almost needed shades.  For a moment I found myself thinking that their inclusion must have been a mistake, until my training reminded me that these girls were most likely to have convicted of crimes of opportunity.  In juvenile hall, its always the ones that develop instant rapport with everyone that create the most trouble, because they are usually the ones that create trouble. 

Statistics show that a kid who commits a crime of passion is more likely to be successful in getting turned around than one who habitually steals.  So these "darlings" reminded me of the ones who stole a time too many, or worse.  And this reminded me of the kids that I used to see.  The ones that you develop instant rapport with are most likely the ones trying to play you. Or they can be the ones so desperate gfor anytype of human contact that they sign up to talk to you just because they need to.  Its hard to tell what, if anything is real or true inside a world that operates in the reverse of how life should be.  Eventually, they'll be back out on the street, but odd are they'll back up in a prison.
I hope one day to find one of these gems at a flea market. Maybe “Donna” or “Durango” did get to take one home and maybe it will end up at flea market.

Each book, a real reminder of real life Reform School Girls, 2 gr-8 2 b 4-gotten.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Two Queens on fashion, drama and Pepsi

Thank you

Part of what has kept me sane in the past couple weeks has been my blogs, my friends and my friends that I know through the blogging community.

To some people, a dog is a dog.  To me, Bertie was my world for 17 years, in both significance and duty.  When you take on a dog as a pet, as a member of the family, you make a decision that your must do whats best for them, even if means thinking of their needs before yours, and weighing the options.  The weight of the decision to have her put down was made heavier yesterday by actually following through on the decision.

Today the weight is lessened and I am still missing her.  I was alone in the house this morning for the first time in 16 years.  When I set the alarm, the motion sensors were turned back up full blast. 

So now I thank each of you who has written to me through email, through Facebook and through the comments area.  You were a big part of what kept me going.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why?

Ain't it the truth?

It is done

My beloved Bertie is no more, except in our hearts.

I didn't cry until Just before I handed her to the Vet.  But I didn't start to sob until I got in the car.

Her collar and tags are on the picture of her I keep at work.

I miss her more than words can express.

The beginning of the last things in a life.

So throughout the whole Bertie Decision, it seems like we have have gone through a series of steps.  Coming to the relaization that this needed to be done.  Talking with the vet about what happens. Waiting for my husband E to come to the same place I was in the decision making.  Making the appointment.  Getting through the past week.

This morning, no more steps. Now we have hurdles that have to be overcome.

Hurdle one was getting through the husband's "Good bye".  The last time her held her.  Waiting for him to let go. 

So now it will be my turn, my hurdle to come.  Get things ready for work.  Get her into the car. Get going.

Throughout this what my mind can't adjust to is that I'm coming home later today.  She never will as a living being.  Though she is forever in my heart, this is the beginning of the last things.

My mind is going back to the day we met, when she and her littermates - all long since passed - where put out on the grass for me to see.  She navigated the grass to come to me, turned around with her back to me.  And when I heald her for that first time - she fit in the palm of my hand - I never imagined that there would be the day that I would hold her for the final time.

That day is here.  Think of her in the moments after 9AM(EDT).  Pray for me in the days to come.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The night before...

Tomorrow, I am having the first great love of my life, Bertie - my 17 year old Jack Russell Terrier, put down.  Old age has taken its toll on her.  Her eyes are no longer sharp, her hearing is no longer good and ever move she makes is full of the pain of old age - a concept that dogs just don't get since they live very Zen lives.  To her, life is not reflective - she can't look back at her life and remember how great she felt in her youth and compare that to the aches and pains of old age.  Life is in the moment, and without being able to look back or forward, life for her is now a life of old age pain. It just is waht is.  But the deciding factor really came down to two things, all of the issues of old age combine into one thing, and then there is her "lostness" in the world around her.  She no long recognizes where she is in the house.  Some nights she just stands alone in the kitchen looking out into the distance, preferring not to interact, but wait for something that will never come.  There is not much quality of life in that. 

I keep telling myself that I need to be strong, but then I wonder if being strong means being cold. I'm ending a life tomorrow.  I have to get through this, even though she won't.

The romantic in me - the one who holds onto to sappy hopes, wishes and dreams, hopes that when my time comes that there is an after life.  I'll want to see her and hold her again.

I just need to get through this moment, this evening, this night and then I'll deal with the tomorrows because unlike the dogs in our lives and in our hearts and in our memories, that's what we people have to do..

We miss the Kahiki


No, its no an IHop on acid, it was the Kahiki, the largest most fabulous Polynesian Supper Club in the Midwest.  In it's day it was the place to be seen in Columbus.  Then a man bought the Kahiki who cared more about frozen food then he did about saving the business and the building and interior which was on the National Register of Historic Places.  So the Kahiki was torn down my Walgreen's, a company that had a policy against tearing down National Register properties in place, but deemed the demolition as a "go" because the owner wanted it torn down, as well.

We had our last dinner at the Kahiki with - of all people - Frank DeCaro!  Who jetted to Columbus just to dine at the most fabulous supper club in all the world.  And there, in the Kahiki gift shop reader, Frank lei'd me.  I shall always treasure the lei.

And the man who sold the restaurant to run a frozen food company of the same name as the late restaurant?  He died shortly after his dream, or nightmare, became a reality.  Karma will bit you in the ass for killing a beloved institution just as Frank DeCaro will lei your in a gift shop.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Its almost drive in season!


OK, for a second, lets set the camp value of Kitten With A Whip aside, and look at it in 1964 sensibilities, shall we?  For those of you who have never seen the movie version of "Wade Miller's" 1959 book, it is the story of a nubile girl gone bad (Ann-Margaret) who tries to beat the system by blackmailing an older, middle-aged politician.  Back in 1964, she was the aggressor, he the victim.  And the the title for God's sake!  KITTEN WITH A WHIP!

OK, so lets put on our jaded modern era minds and look at it another way.  Would this movie be even remotely possible today?  Who would step in to Ann-Margaret's role? Anyone, anyone?  What about John Forsyth's role? Anyone, anyone? 

If you've never seen the movie, go out and rent it - its a hoot. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What's it all about, Mary?

The Wigs-A-G-Go thing got me thinking back to an incident in my Junior High School days in 1975-76 at Byron Junior High School. I was in section 7-6; the seven told you what you grade was and the “six” was the section or unit of students that you took classes with. In Seventh grade your section consisted of 20-25 students who all had the same teachers throughout the school, but you walked independently from room to room during the ten minute class change period. In eighth grade, the units began to only share half the classes and in ninth grade, you signed up for your classes independent of who was in class with you.

Anyway, 7-6 had Dr. Mary Riley for English. Riley was an unknown quantity at Byron as she was a new hire into Shaker, and Shaker just didn’t hire anyone. A job teaching in Shaker was a golden star in any public school teachers resume.  If they hired you, you were worthy of teaching in one of the best public systems in the United States.

Dr. Riley was nice and her classes were par for the course. Because she was also the adviser for the school newspaper, the Shaker Bee, many of her creative writing assignments were used in the paper, such as it was.

But because she was new, and because none of our older siblings or friends had had her, we knew nothing about "her" or what she was apt to in a given instance.  And we needed something definite to mark her as, because that what 13 years need.  Like other 13 year olds we were curious about her, but you couldn't go up to her and ask "Do you have any children of your own?" and "If not, why?"  So we started making stuff up based on observations.  Thats what 13 years old.  We thought that she smoked, which back then wasn’t a scarlet letter issue, it just was fact that we could smell.  But looking back, all the teachers were allowed to smoke in the lounge and it could have been that she had been in the teachers lounge right before our class. We were able to find out that her husband was involved in education on some level as well, we had no idea where or what he actually did. We also learned that she lived on the west side of Cleveland making her an official exotic in east side Shaker Heights.  Back then, Rudyard Kipling's axiom on east and west was in force in Cleveland and to those of us in Shaker, the West side of Cleveland was someplace that only went to when your family flew somewhere on a plane, or to pick someone up when they came to visit.

First semester was nothing out of the ordinary and her English was a class that you went to, but didn't dread, unlike some other teacher's and their classes.  Second semester started off promising until  one day in late winter when the normally averageDr. Riley showed up dressed as if she had had a rough night dancing in a cage on the Dean Martin Show. 

Her eyes looked as if she had a migrain that morning, but it was her clothing and hair that knock us for a loop. In addition to wearing a mini dress and knee boots, our 40 something mellow teacher also showed up wearing a large silver afro that would have put Angela Davis to shame. Normally her hair was a free-form head of salt and pepper hair with some curl and some not curled hair, and this was accompanied by the usual blouse and slacks, or the occassional skirt. So the leap to what looked like Very Mod Squad took all of us by surprise.  This wasn't her modus operandi.  Something serious was amiss.  This was not how a Shaker Teacher dressed and we were in shock.

She had a couple problems going on. First and foremost was that the outfit was a good ten years out of date, unless you were one of my father’s clients who worked on a street corner.  The second was the wig.  By 1975, women didn't wear wigs like this unless they starred in blaxpotation films.  But there she was, walking down the halls, leaving behind her a trail of students who were either slck jawed or whispering about what they weren't sure they were seeing.

Between homeroom and our class, the school buzzed.  Other seventh grade classes other than us had her. Did she explain it?  Mention it? Get home late from a costume party? Beuhler, Beuhler, Beuhler?

English for 7-6 was in the afternoon, so we had to wait.  Evidently she was perked up a bit by the time we entered the room. That day she was teaching some bizarre paperback called “Alvarado Street” that pitted under privileged white kids who smeared mashed potatoes in their hair and then used a pomade of gasoline to top it off, against a group of Hispanic “utes”. The book was suppossed to give us some sort of insight into a world that we didn't have in Shaker, but most of thought it was bullcrap.  The book was implausible to us, so taking it seriously was hard enough. However having it taught to us by someone imitating Rosalind Cash in the last half of Omega Man made it all the more like a Fellini movie than a day in our mundane lives.

But this was Shaker Heights, in the 1970s. We were a community of madras, Izods and Peck & Peck. Levi’s were in, go-go boots in flashy colors were not. We couldn’t look her in the face – we wern’t sure what the deal was.  While the youths in Alverado Street seemed cliché and unreal, Dr. Riley's attire for the day was unnerving and it left us feeling as if we didn't know what to do or say or look at.

"Can anyone tell me why they rub mashed potatoes in their hair and then rub in the gasoline?" she asked, looking around the room, her afro wig bobbing with every head motion.  "Well then, can anyone tell what they would be if you had to be one or the other?  A greaser...anyone?  A gasser? Veronica, which would you be if you had to be one or the other?"

Veronica Szereba just sat there, panic struck.  The lady with the silver afro was asking her to make a choice, and like the rest of us, she was afraid of saying something like "A greaser, I guess, Dr. Afro, I mean, Dr. Riley."

"Well, what about Pam?  Pam what about you? A greaser or a gasser?"

Pam Bashine who sat behind Vernorica and was kind twisted in her seat "I'd rather be neither, but if I had to choose one or the other, the greaser would be less afraid to be around open flames, I guess."

Dr. Riley's hand went up to her wig and scratched her head, moving the whole wig.

"I'm not sure what I would want in my hair," she said, as if it wasn't already obvious what she had her hand in her wig, scratching away at her head.  The only thing missing from that moment was a dwarf delivering a message from the office, because if this surreal moment had been a part of a Fellini movie, this is what would have happened.

Evidently the fashion of the moment changed the next day as the old Dr. Riley returned, exactly as we felt she should have looked. Tensions in the school diminished.  Acceptable clothing, no wig and completely normal as if the day before had never happened. And it makes me wonder – did she do it to try and elicit a reaction? Was this some type of personal rebellion? Was it connected with some type of educational research? Or was she trying to jerk our chains.

Whatever it was, it left us with more questions than we dared asked of her. And because she didn’t return to work at our school the following year, we could never go back and see if pulled the same wardrobe stunt again.  The whole episode remains known best by the "Silver Afro Incident" to my now 47 year old former  classmates.  I don't know if the students today would have been more assertive in demanding an answer to the attire, but we were raised to look the other way, even if it meant a certain trip to the Shrink to question that reality that day in that school.  Did we really see it?  Did we really not ask?  Did they talk about her in the Teachers Lounge.  And, "what was it all about, Mary?"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Curlers on your head, shame on you...



Advance to minute 3:45 for the old Clairol Kindness Hot Curlers ad.

Surly this belongs in a Hair Hall of Fame!


I found this in the January 19, 1967 edition of the Marion Star - my hometown newspaper - tucked in a cupboard at my mother's house.  I have no idea why my stepfather or his wife tucked it there.  I have no idea why my step brother and sister wanted nothing to do with it when they emptied the house of their parents posessions after my step father died.  And until we started The Hair Hall of Fame blog, it never dawned on me what I would ever do with it while I was saving it in and acid free enevelope.

Well, thank God I did save it. 

I can find nothing on Marjorie Barnekow.  I have tore up the Internet, and I have searched hi and low and nothing on this nationally famous Wig Consultant.  Nor can I find anything to back up the assertion that Brunettes can be exotic.  If this were true, my mother would wear finger cymbals.

So wherever you are Majorie, I salute you.  And I will forever feel cheated that I was denied a chance to go to Wigs-A-Go-Go.

Now I want to oopen a dance bar with that name.  Will this torment ever end?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Seriously, WTF?

I am still trying to figure out this hairdo.  Seriously, doesn't she look like one of the alien stress dolls that you squeeze and the nodes pop out of them?  You can catch even more mysterious hair at The Hair Hall of Fame

She certainly gets around


{via}

Pass her on...spread the love...

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Isn't it obvious that...


...these women desperately need some gay men in their lives... 

The Seven Salads of Marion, Ohio

Mandatory Salads

Each Marion, Ohio (my recognized hometown) potluck, covered dish supper, church meal, fund raiser, after funeral meal or card club party must all of these basic salads:

Potato Salad

Macoroni Salad

Waldorf Salad

Green Jell-O Salad with celery, shaved carrots & marshmallows

Bean Salad

Egg Salad

And Cole Slaw

Optional Choices
You may have no more than two optional choices. You may have one. But no more than two, period:


Watergate Salad

Chicken Salad

Baked beans.

Hold on their Hoss.  Baked beans are not a salad; they are a covered dish.  Nice try Bubb.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Love personified, OurMen


You know, a lot of gay men say that they want this in a man or that in a man.  He must be this this, or he must no be that.  He must love this or he must love that.  Some of us want one kind of man so bad that we end miserable in arelationship with the wrong man because he had the attributes we though we wanted, only to find out that what the guy was also missing were the things our hearts sang out for.

One twerp said that "How don't care how perfect he is, he can't drink coffee with cream in it because that offends me."  Another person we know constantly makes the wrong decisions in men by picking the same under acheivers, flim flam artists and other dorks who are not as smart as he is.  The consequence for him is that his life is a revolving door constantly spitting out "The ONE" who always becomes the latest "ex". One man I know, who sideded with my ex when I walked out 13 years ago, once confided to me that "He" (his lover) "came only come by masturbation and I hate that.  Frottage is a much more personal way to have an orgasm and I'm going to break him of that hand..." and I thought Holy crap honey, the man is beautiful inside and out, he's gentle, you're ga ga for him, if he wants to use a hand, let him.

Then there are those of us who are exquisitly blessed to find that the man we find, or who found us, is the right one for us and we are so to him as well.  He accepts us, we accept him.  He doesn't change us and we have no need to change him. Together, its perfect propinquity.

Real love, between a man and the one he allows into his life is personified by the image above.  It is at once happy, and tender, and serious, and fun, and trusting - and well you get the picture.  This picture was purloined from our friend MrPeenee.  Peenee is the one with the joyous smile, his husband known to us as "RMan" is the strong silent one. This is an image that only people who love one and other could make together.

We received a bit of bad news in this community of faithful friends orbiting similar blogs - dear Penee and RMan are facing an issue that none of us ever wants to face, but many of us will - the illness of our  partner/lover/spouse.  Our heart goes out to him and to his RMan. 

Today and forever more they "OurMen". 

Now is not a time for sympathy, but prayers and good feelings and positive Karma. Peenee needs us and we shall not let him or his man down.


Its nice to know that the Scopitone Dancers were off rhythm on a consistent basis as they are here!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The world around us


Up the street from our porch....


And the view off the back porch.

We love spring!

Monday, April 12, 2010

His passion for her throbbed in an obscene fashion...


...many years ago, to put myself through school, I caught a gig writing romance novels.  By agreement with the publisher I picked a feminine pen name, and set to work with the guide that they sent me. 

By contract, the book had to be 275 pages, period.  The guidelines also preferred that the storyline follow a female protagonist who was searching for love, something that had evaded her. "X" number of pages would pass before she could "give" herself to a male that she loved, although a man she detested could "take" her, so long as I didn't go into details and the fates dealt him punishment for that lapse of judgment.

The editors gave me my protagonists name, and so they created "Jayne".  Not Jane, but JAYNE" because "Jane" was a WASPISH sounding name that could belong to anyone, but the added "Y" made he special, with it, and "today".  Why did they give a you name?  Because they didn't want seven books in one month to have female protagonists all named Heather, Brittany or Mariah.

The editors also gave me the name of the man with whom "Jayne" would find happiness and fulfillment.  And his name was "Darrik" and spelled as such.  It was edgy, familiar and daring.  Darrik could have a dark secret, but that secret could not include: homosexuality, criminal acts, draft dodging or AWOL status from the military and he could not have a history of being a "Himbo" (my name for it) because while women love the idea of taming a rake, they don't like a man-whore because past behavior is a good indication of future behaviors.  Darrik could be a professional, or a blue color, each provided, according to the outline, specific plot tracks that the story could go towards.  He could have a motorcycle, but he could not drive a white van, because that would be creepy.

Included in the packet were adjectives that were "masculine" and those which belonged to the distaff side of the story:

MASCULINE adjectives included: throb, strained, brute, muscularity, rippling, brooding and tender.

FEMININE adjectives included: pulsate, trembling, quivering, wavering, wanting, yearning, dewy, moist, etc.

"Avoid melancholia - it turns readers off.  If either the protagonist,or the man who was captures her heart, are moody; it leads the reader to think that one, the other, or both are unstable."

The list was there to keep men from pulsating when they should have throbbed.  And rather than have the protagonist "feel her own heart throbbing" they preferred that she felt her pulse quickening.  Evidently the female heart could only make an appearance once she "surrendered her will" to his "unyielding desire to take her" and then the heavens would sing, the angles were free to weep and she too would know the fulfillment that had evaded her for so long.

"And no Fuckie Fudging."

Fuckie Fudging is a term to denote text that simply takes up space for the sake of taking up space.  So when Jayne finally yields to Derrik, she could not coo "Yessssss..."

That said, with all the limits they put on me, I was cooked after the third book. The first book was about a woman starting out on her own after discovering that the man she had been saving herself for had been untrue.  The second book was about a woman who, having been raised by two maiden aunts, was now free to set out on her own.  By the third book, I was out of ideas of what pure women could do that didn't involve a specific career or school.

In the second book, the protagonist was fooled by a man who held great promised, but revealed that he was a cad.  In the first book, the protagonist found the gentle man under the rough and silent exterior.  But in the third book, I just ran out of idea who could find who in the WASP world that the publisher felt that these women lived in.  SO my editor told me that I could write of write of a woman who ventured out into the world, to forget. 

"Forget what?"

"She could be trying to forget a love that wasn't pure?"

His solution wasn't all that out of the formula, so I slogged through the third book, but "Laura" and "Van" were nothing more than pale imitations of "Tamara"and "Ben" who were second rate "Jayne and  Darrik's".

So I walked away, partly because the well wasn't as deep as they needed it to be on my part, and partly because I wanted to write about a woman from the wrong side of the tracks, which was not allowed unless she was intent on bettering herself.

In the romance writers world in monthly cycle of pulp books, the line that these women could walk was narrow, but my aspirations were simply too big for the grocery store rack to hold.

To err is human; to forgive is...

to be Harris Glen Milstead, in a dress with big old eyebrows.

Have a great week to come, whatever, or whoever may come your way!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

You have to give in order to get


I love my neighbors - they are good people and they are fun to be with.  But truth be told, I hate bridge - both the structure and the card game.  Well tonight I'm hosting bridge at our house with the ladies from up the street.  You gotta give a little to get in return.  So if I love their company, then I gotta give a wee bit on the cards.

What I dispise about a polite game of Bridge is that its a game in which people are polite, but they savage each other after every hand is played:

Irene: That was an interesting bid, but I wouldn't have played it that way.

Connie: How many points did you have in hand?

Louise: Why did you go with clubs?  My GOD you could have run the board in no trump.

Renee: I know you're holding out the good scotch on us...

Seriously - this is a game in which someone has to be the dummy.

For the uninitiated, Bridge is a game of great thought and strategy.  But the play of the cards is NOTHING compared to the bidding, which is all done in code.  The thinking behind bidding is that you are TELLING YOUR PARTNER WHAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR HAND WITHOUT TELLING THEM WHAT YOU HAVE IN YOUR HAND.

I play only enough to gossip - after a few drinks you get all the best gossip and chat:

Irene: Well you heard that Marilyn is going to be a grandmother, didn't you?  That cheap piece of ass her son was running with said she was on the pill and she wasn't...

Renee: ...and I told her if she didn't do something before that girl got knocked that her son would be taking out the trash at the wedding when he had to dance with his new "mother-in-law"...

Louise...Connie, where did you see her and she was wearing hot pants in January...

Connie...Who was wearing hot pants?  Oh, you mean Betty Crandall?  Did you hear her daughter is pregnant with Marilyn's grandchild...did anyone bring a joint?  I need to get this edge off of me before I go home...

But I swear to God in his heaven if Louise starts in on me tonight about card plays, I will go into the kitchen and God as my witness I will get a rag to stuff in her f-ing mouth!


Monday, April 5, 2010

AMC's Edsel: 1961 AMC Ambassador Custom






In 1959, American Motors of Kensoha, Wisconsin, was swimming in money.  The company got lucky when the economy tanked in 1958 and its line of fuel efficient compact Rebel's, Custom's and American's caught the buying public's attention by promising smaller, thrift cars that were well built.  The company also built a very large, full-sized car named the Ambassador.  The Ambassador (a model name that went back to the Nash days) was essentially Ramble Custom on a stretch wheel base with topline appointments, but it was still a "value" added car, or a really big Rambler any way you cut it.  By 1960, Rambler sales were running third behind and Chevloet and Ford, and Rambler knocked Buick from the third position.  Heady stuff for one of two remaining independents, the other being Studebaker, which was suffering a host of other maladies.

Rambler styling was was the under the auspices of Edmund Anderson, and Anderson convinced George Romney that the public would buy more Ambassadors if the company could further differeniate the the "big Rambler" model from basic Ramblers by giving it a slightly different look - one that was related, but different.  Romney gave the project a greenlight, but knew that Rambler's future was in small cars.

The car that emerged is pictured above.   

Anderson had sold the 1961 Ambassador design to the AMC product planners as "european" in its inspriation.  And Anderson paid for the redesign by cutting corners and sharing components.  The greehouse above the beltline was shared with lesser Ramblers.  The reverse "C" pillar, a Rambler styling hallmark since the mid 1950s was outdated by 1961, but reused to save money on a unique greenhouse.  More money was shaved by giving the car a 1961 Rambler Classic rear end.  In place of Classic's "sole plate" taillights, Anderson's team assembled a variety of conflicting shapes - circles and cones - and heavy stainless trim.  But the worst aspect of the design was given to the front, where AMC's designers decided to try everything the could to set the car apart.

The stretched front fenders arched up and backwards, and the hood sprouted eyebrows that hover over the floating headlights.  A trapzoid grille of fine bars appeared.  All of the shapes fought on and other as if to suggest to design was based on people saying "We haven't used (insert shape) lets run it up the flag pole and see who salutes."  The whole design looked like it was at war with itself.

Inside, it was pure Rambler.  But even the horn button sprouted two paper clip like wings that spiked up and then dropped back down. 

And how was it received?

The car was an unmitigated disaster for AMC.

Ambassador sales in the good years were around 10,000 plus vehicles.  But the 1961 Ambassador saw sales that were virtually non existent somewhere around 9,000.  For comparison, Rambler production was 90,000+ for the same year.  This meant that for every 10 cars sold through AMC, nine were Classics and Customs and Americans.  Most dealers got one or two and that was that for a given community.  Dealers in larger cities got more, but the car was lost in the crowd. 9,000 Ambassadors nationwide compared to 675,000 Chevy's.  Mechanically, all Ramblers were sound cars.  But the Ambassador was heavy, ugly, expensive and dealers couldn't give them away.

So what was the fallout?  First and foremost AMC took a huge loss on the tooling for the project.  Because the tooling wasn't reused for 1962, the loss on each vehicle produced was larger than if the tooling had been used over a two or three year life span.  The failure of the 1961 models forced AMC to exit the Full Sized car market. From 1962 through 1964, the Ambassador was nothing more than a compact Rambler Classic.   Edmund Anderson ultimately lost his job.  But from a public perception stand point, AMC just seemed to produce strange looking cars.  By 1967 when the company fielded its most mainstream models, people moved on to other makes with better quality.  Unlike Toyota today, which makes everything from a Prius to the Avalon, AMC ended up with a reputation of making cars that were just "meh".  And that reputation dogged the company until its final days under Renault ownership.

So why don't more know about this car? Its probably because so few of them were produced and so few survived.  And it was a one year mistake.  Even the Edsel had a three year run.  And while the name "Edsel" has been retired because of its negative meanings, AMC continued to use the Ambassador name until 1974. But 1961 Ambassador styling was so ugly,  AMC couldn't wait to end its misery.  And thats why its dropped from the radar screen.  Now you see it, now you don't.  Its like that crazy aunt you keep locked in the basement.  What Aunt you say.  Exactly.

But would I want one?  In a heartbeat!

Friday, April 2, 2010

My parents life of crime: THE BEIGE PHONE


Professionally, my father was an attorney, the likes of which are disappearing today. He could represent you for a parking ticket, or he could argue before the United States Supreme Court, which he did. All sorts of people came to him and he did what he was paid to do - give them sound legal advice, the likes of which they may or may not want to hear.

My mother had nursing training and worked in doctors offices. Still, she was at her best when she was a housewife and committee lady. Our house was always in order to the outside world, but our junk drawer lived up to its name.

Aside from their divorce from each - a prolonged process that was like watching cancer overtake a dying patient, both of my parents were law abiding citizens who were not on the wrong side of anything for the most part, but they crossed the line when I was growing up and I'm here to come clean because I can't carry the heavy shame of their actions.

Before the break up of the Bells in 1982, phone service was a heavily regulated industry. Consumers got artificially low rates in exchange for doing all of your business with the phone company.  This meant that you leased your phones from the phone company, and you paid out the "waazoo" for long distance and special services like multiple phones, which were used back then for talking to people.  For their part the phone company also maintained your phones, which in the mid 1960s were still hard wired to the wall.  Plug in phones - those with jacks that you could move from room to room were still a luxury.  So phones got put in the kitchen, or the hall way and if you really had made it, your parents would have a second phone in the bedroom.  My grandmother had her phone wired in a hallway outside the bedroom, and it sat on what was placed on a desk like piece of furniture - the likes of which are never found in homes today - that combine a desk and a side ways chair.  The idea was, since the phone couldn't be moved, you sat and talked on the phone.  Why?  Because the phone company would give you four feet of phone cord, and you weren't taking that call anywhere but there.   And forget about having enough cord to drag that phone into the other room.  You sat and talked on the phone, but not to long because someone with an EMERGECY could be waiting for you to get the Hell off that phone!  Phones came in a limited number of colors - most were black.  Some were "green" but most were still black.  Sure they had things like princess phones and touch tone phones, but that was for other people who liked to waste their money on what my father commonly called "crap". This was what phone service meant in the 1960s.

Our family, while living in the nightmare which was my parents marriage, was also living the dream because our home had two phones. One in the kitchen and one in my parents bedroom.  But sometime after I developed an awareness of the surroundings around me, my father had the phones on Sherrington Road upgraded to portable units that could be carried from room to room and plugged into jacks stationed in many rooms.   With so many jacks and only one phone that could be moved (the other phone was bolted to the kitchen wall and it wasn't going anywhere) temptation got the better of my parents and a "beige phone" appeared in our house. 

The "beige phone"quickly turned into being called THE BEIGE PHONE, so named because it was not black, but a muddy light brown.  Its ominous formal name came into existence because that phone was the elephant in the living room, so to speak. Yes, we had it, but it didn't ring for one thing, and for another, our phone number wasn't in the window in the middle of the phone's dial.  Where "LOngacre1-1234" should have been was an empty window under which rested a bolt and nut. Where was our telephone company insert?  This phone did have one, and it didn't have one for a big reason:

Ohio Bell had no idea we had this phone.  My parents had an illegal phone, and thus they crossed the line between what was morally right, and what wasn't.  This is my secret shame.

Remember, you just couldn't go out and buy a phone back then.  The phone had to have come from a phone company, which one of the Bell's is anyone's guess. It was a Western Electric phone so it was Bell property.  It was unaccounted for.  And no one was talking about where the phone came from either.  It was like *POOF* and it like magic, there was this phone.  And like good racketeers, both my father and my mother told us not to ask questions if we knew what was good for us.  We were all in on the crime, whether we were old enough to use the phone, or not.  If  we were caught - the phone company would fine us and tack on a whole extra dollar per month to the phone bill.  And back then, a dollar bought you two gallons of gasoline!  And evidently the phone had been "fixed" by having its bell silenced, so it would never ring, and thus would never give us away in the event that the phone police came to our house with their phone sniffing dog and one of the neighbors would call us to see if everything was OK.

The phone made its way from room to room at the house on Sherrington Road, and then made the move with us to South Woodland Road in 1968, where it found a home in my father's library - a large den in the front of the house.

Still in the event that the phone company ever came in to the neighborhood, someone would panic and yell "Quick, hide that phone or they'll charge us!"  My father even went so far to tell me in first grade that if someone from the phone company asks, I was not to say a word about THE BEIGE PHONE..  "If they ask, you don't know anything about THE BEIGE PHONE, you understand?" my father would instruct. And why would he say that?  Because our next door neighbor on South Woodland was an executive with Ohio Bell.  The McCord's had six children, from high school age to a new born, but the subject of hot phones never came up in conversation. Still, my father was suspect. 

"They have ways of knowing how many phones are in the house," he said.

"Why not just pay for the third phone?" I asked.

"Are you kidding - do you know how much they charge for a third phone?  My God, there would go you College education!"  Like I said, the cost would have been a whole $12 a year for the peace of mind of playing by the rule.  But no, we had to live with this secret because my father was intent on investing that $12 at .3% over eight years so I could buy an entire college education . 

Did I believe him?

Please: hyperbole, thy name is Marvin.

When my parents divorced the last time, they got into this whole big argument about who got THE BEIGE PHONE.  "Why would I want that thing, " my mother said to me.  I was confused.  Why not indeed?  Wasn't this the thing that had bound us together in a secret society that no outsider would ever dare pierce?

"I only 'want' it because your father wants it." She said.   Since I was child and used that ploy at every chance that I could, I understood the tactic, but for an adult to use it left me confused.   "You'll see," she said.  "I give him that phone, I get something in return that I want.  And what I want is something you don't have to hide whenever someone says Ohio Bell."

From my father, who thought I was his personal medium for passing messages onto my my mother, would tell me "Tell your mother she can't have THE BEIGE PHONE.  Its mine, she better not take it."  For something we weren't supposed to talk about, my parents spent a lot time haggling over that phone.  I seem to remember that my mother let him have THE BEIGE PHONE, and for her trouble she ended up with the Steuben glass knick knacks.

"Let's see her try an place a call on that Gad damned Rams Head candy dish!" he said while savoring his  Pyhrric victory. 

I consider myself lucky that this is the most sinister thing that my parents did.  In all other things they were pretty much sticklers for playing by the rules.  I know I'm lucky that my folks almost always walked on the side of whats right.  Except where this phone was concerned.  Which is why the whole thing was so damn"naughty".  Had my parents been total creeps, they would have had bodies in the freezer and I'd be in the witness protection plan.  But this? Feh!

After my father died, and I would go to an antique mall, and I would see an old Western Electric rotary desk phone, I would be tempted to buy it.  You know, to keep the tradition of THE BEIGE PHONE alive and all.  But with the change in telecom, what fun is it hiding something that is no longer against the law and where's the fun in that?  Then I found out that in phone collecting circles, there is no Western Electric beige desk phone.  The phone was in fact "Tan", not beige. Strange how you can grow up and in an instant see all of your perceptions changed.  Somehow, screaming to "hide THE TAN PHONE" seems off, unlike the satisfyingly bland color of BEIGE which need to be spoken about in a manner that no one but the deaf could mistake.   Still, in our house, THE BEIGE PHONE is a coded phrase for any uncomfortable moment that one needs to escape.  When the Watch Tower people come to the door, I can never talk to them no thank you, because I have to get THE BEIGE PHONE.

Thursday, April 1, 2010