Monday, August 31, 2009
...that the car carrying Diana, Princess of Wales crashed killing her, boyfriend Dodi Al-Fayed, and their driver Henri Paul. Whatever your opinion of her in her life, her death brought about extraordinary change in people. It was one of the few rare times in the loud, brash 90's when folks just kind of let the moment "be" what it was.
I look at this and I look like a stranger to who I am now.
If any of us met our future selves in the future, would we know the future "me"? If we met our past selves, would we even want to spend time with the people who we once were?
But what I wouldn't give to have that body today...
Mohammad Ali is The Greatest. But has anyone heard of this man? I haven't. How does one become the greatest pyschic and bull fighter in one lifetime and come in under everyone's radar?
Well, this is what the postcard says about him:
Finding nothing about this guy on Google or Bing, I looked up December 1944 and find that the German's started the Battle of the Bulge on December 16, 1944 and the Allies stall the offensive on December 26, 1944.
I also found a book about him, which refers to Anderson as "the Georgia Seer".
Other than that, pffft!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
The passive aggressive approach. In between the lines it reads: "We want everyone to know that ANN, we mean ANN SANFORD of Zanesville, Ohio shirked her duty to GOD and blew off Sunday School! She not only let her classmates down, but now God will know that we aren't one cohesive unit. Don't fuck with us again, Ann. We'd better see you next week. Your class.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Thursday, August 27, 2009
I say “stuff” because no other word exists in western language that is all inclusive enough for the objects, products, trinkets, ephemera, photographs and items that one would consider treasurer and that others would declare as junk.
While some are pack rats and others find status in the objects around them, my in-laws are dear people, gentle and very sweet, and they find meaning the objects around them. If you've sent them a card in the past sixty or so years, chances are they have it somewhere in their house, along with twenty stories about you and how dear you are to them. The stories always out number the objects, still, their house is large and it physically holds a great deal. A large portion of the “stuff” is “family stuff” and because both sides of my husbands family are deeply rooted in New England, the house was full of items passed down by many generations, or made by someone's sixth great grandfather the day he took a bullet on the Green during the battle of Lexington, or on the bridge at Concord, or both.
Anyone who has gone through this process knows that its a no win situation. If there are siblings, it can be even more stressful, especially when brother and brother, brother and sister or sister and sister all decide that they want the same thing and cannot compromise. My in laws have raised a good brood of children, and there is never a raised voice. Everyone gets along and the feeling of love between them is sincere, and patient.
So with their decision to look into assisted living was made, came the herald from the folks that their children and grandchildren were to come to the house and take what we wanted from the items that wouldn't transition to the assisted living center.
On previous visits we had shown interest in a maple grandfather clock from the 1700s and a couple oil portraits of the ancestors. If we wanted the one grandfather clock, would we like two? Well if no one else...they don't? You insist? Lovely.
Because neither of us wanted to think about a 26 hour round trip excursion in a rented van, and we couldn't afford a long haul moving company, we arranged for a shipping container to get dropped at their house, which we would then pack up and send to our home.
The sorting of the goods began the minute we landed at the house. Much of the contents had been sent to a well known auction house in Boston, so the things that remained we're the items of sentimental value. We started in the living room. “How about some paper weights,” my mother in law asked. “There's the police ledger...” my father in law offered. Ink wells? Scrimshaw? Tea cups? And on it went for three days. We wrapped and we packed when we exploring.
The clocks revealed that they were much older than we thought, and that the clock we thought was Civil War era was more like War of 1812. Both clocks had wooden works which somehow came as a relief to me. The clocks were dismantled; their hoods, works and pendulums all boxed, their cases were wrapped in bubble wrap and then shrink wrapped per of friend the antique dealer's instructions.
“There's a letter in that clock that my father wrote when I got that clock from his house,” my mother in law pointed out. And in fact, reaching down into the case revealed the letter which we read. The letter told us how the clock came into the family, how it was passed down, and how “Uncle Roger is not to get this clock!” wrote her father. “He had his chance; he passed it up. If he comes and asks for it he is not to get this clock!”
“So,” my mother in law said, “If Uncle Roger comes and asks for it, he isn't to get it.”
That Uncle Roger had been dead for twenty or so years was immaterial. “If Uncle Roger come for the clock,” my husband said, “we have bigger problems than turning him down.”
We found a music box cigarette dispenser that, when the button up top is pressed, plays the Ode to Joy while six doors of the container open fully, and then close. Neither of us smokes, but that was a keeper. We were also given a piece of baleen, which I thought was an old piece of cove molding. Some larger whales have no teeth, instead they use baleen to filter krill from seawater which they ingest. The idea of a whale's gum tissue freaked me out until I learned that corset stays were made of baleen, and that this piece (a three foot section) had a whaling scene etched in it.
With the shipping unit nearly full, the final thing that we went through was the silver. Not silverplate mind you like you would find in my family, but fine grade sterling, which had long ago been packed in a suitcase when silver was at it heights in price and stowed in the basement for safe keeping. The trick worked; even the in laws were surprised by what we pulled from the suitcase.
“So that's where that went,” my mother in law said when I held up her grandmother's sterling tea “ball” on a dainty chain. “She used to have formal tea each afternoon and I remember thinking when will this tea party end!”
“Will you look at that.” my father in law exclaimed as much as he could exclaim anything as we fished out his baby cup.
Candle sticks, cups, bowls, cigarette boxes, napkin rings, small spoons, large spoons, more candle sticks, all sterling, all engraved with the in laws initials or the initials of the ancestors, all sterling and all from the best stores in Boston.
Each item had a story. “I seem to remember that when we got married we received forty or fifty bonbon dishes,” commented my father in law when the 20th such delicate tray was pulled from its flannel wrappings. “We got rid of a large number of them and used the money to buy a used Packard.”
“My uncle Roger took one look at that car and told us that we weren't to drive it. It wasn't safe. He got our money back and helped us find a more reliable car,” my mother in law offered.
“Maybe he should have gotten the clock for saving your life from mortal peril,” I said.
“Uncle Roger is not to get the clock...” began my mother in law.
We selected the pieces we would take with great care, and listed to the stories that each piece elicited. Included in what we took were two sets of candlesticks, engraved with my husband's grandmother's initials and mother in law's initials. We agreed that we would take these on the condition that the one set would go to our niece when she married, and one set to our nephew when he tied the knot as well.
There was something about that evening that was far more personal than the previous nights. Each piece of silver had a story, each story brought smiles.
The thing is, the contents of the house that are making their way to our home are never going to be as valuable to us as the time we spent with my in laws that evening. The stories that we've heard will get passed down, as will the silver and the clocks. But the stories that we haven't been told will be forgotten when they pass away, like the silver in that suitcase. Unlike the silver in the suitcase though, when my in laws are no longer with us, the untold stories be lost forever.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Not only did we have the same flight attendant that we've had for the past couple flights home from Boston, but we also had the "pleasure" of being on the same plane as the man who vindictivly outed me to my parents 26 years ago.
The man, henceforth referred to only as "Walt" (not his real name, of course), was my roommate in Washington DC during a semester study program in the winter and spring of 1983. Walt and I ended up being roommates because we connected in the dorm as early move ins, and you know how miserable life can be when when you don't click with a dorm mate. I was scheduled to live with one of the other Journalism program participants, but Walt and I decided to switch roommates since we had sometime to talk, and so it was done. After all we laughed at the same things and appeared to share the excitement about being in Washington, which was a far cry from his tiny college and my small Ohio college. What could go wrong?
We got along OK at first. We did a walking tour of Washington with a couple schoolmates of his from his school who were there in the same program. However, by the end of third weekend, the friction was starting to show, and by the time I discovered that he was an idiot, it was too late. We were stuck with one and other.
The discovery that Walt was an idiot happened when my cousin Betty, called a cousin on her mother's side who lived in DC and arranged for Jenny to take Walt and I out for dinner. In the course of conversation, Jenny mentioned that her mother and father would be hosting our mutual cousin, and my mother at Jenny's fathers house the following month. "Your parents, they are divorced?" Walt asked. Jenny explained that yes, they were divorced, and sensing a moral lesson on the tip of Walt's snarling tongue tried to politely divert the conversation to another topic.
Walt, however had other plans, and proceeded to attack. "I think that divorce is a sign of weak character. Parents have an obligation to stay together for their children whatever the cost may be, " he judged.
Jenny and I were both dumbstruck.
First of all it wasn't polite. Second of all, it was none of his business. Third of all, only an idiot would say such a thing.
Its one thing to be thought an idiot, its something else to open ones mouth and remove all doubt as Walt had just done. Adding insult to the injury that he inflicted, was the snarl of implied superiority and snobbery that threw into jab, as if the action would twist the sword that he believed he just delivered.
Within a week or so of this, Walt started getting very pissy. And he started reading my journal. By the end of the semester we barely spoke. Walt availed himself to being very bigoted, very narrow minded, and very dangerous.
However judgemental, petty and snide he was, I never thought it was within his ability to call my parents and disclose to them that their son, that would be me, was gay. This came about after Walt confirmed what he suspected. He had seen me out in DC with the man I was dating. And according to mutual friends, he was digusted.
I don't know what followed next, but sometime in the next couple weeks a caller started making anonymous phone calls to my parents. Unlike the caller ID of today, or the power of *69, in 1983, such calls were untraceable. The caller told them that they had a right to know about my deviant lifestyle.
In May of 1983, we parted. I was as glad to see him out of my life as I would be to get over food poisoning. And by July 1983, the cat was out of the bag with my parents. What followed was a scene out of Tennessee Williams. Again, it was 1983, and 26 years ago being gay was still not something that most families even acknowledged in other people, let alone in their own children.
For a while I was angry and betrayed. Then the dawn of knowledge slowly gave way to just anger. However, when the dust cleared, and while his act was malevolent, Walt had done me a huge favor. While my friends around me twisted themselves in knots on how to come out to their families, I didn't have to live that lie. The deed was done. The cat was out of the bag. And in the end, we were a much healthier family for it.
Ironically, I settled in Columbus, and as it turns out, Walt went to grad school in Central Ohio. We may have crossed paths three time in 26 years, but it amount to nothing but an icy stare.
So when we sat down in row 13 of Delta Connect plan yesterday, the graying pudgy man behind us looked familiar, but his identity was still unknown. While we waited for everyone to board, the man behind us started several quick phone conversations, and it was then, after hearing that nasally, snarky voice, that Walt was confirmed.
Its a delicate difference between confronting the past and allowing it to be. The line is thin as a single thread. If Walt was the one who made those calls to my parents, then no amount reasoning could be made with him, no repayment for damages done could be collected. And what was I angry about? That he betrayed me? Hardly. If anything my anger with him is what he made innocent bystanders go through at the time.
Walt's outing me made me more sensitive to the plight of people being outed, and for that gift I am grateful. And for the many years of not having that weight on my shoulders, I am grateful as well.
I'm sure that Walt and I will cross paths again. It seems that we are destined to do so. I wish him no ill will, I wish him all the happiness that he sought to rob from me and my family. I have a home, we have our health, and the husband and I have each other. We have so many good things going for us and those we love - we have plenty to share with others, even Walt.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Friday, August 21, 2009
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
God love Muscato. Wednesday was starting off all blowy and rainy when I saw that he posted this on his blog...seeing it brightened my day.
By the way, I note that in the subtitled screen version of the movie, when Pepa is rattling off the ingredients of her gazpacho that she slips in somníferos, translated onscreen as "barbiturates"; in the video version, its translated as "sleeping pills. It was much funnier as barbiturates.
Dear Mrs. Smith Standish,
I was visiting a dear friend of mine and needed to use the lavatory. After closing the door, I addressed the water closet only to discover that the previous user had failed complete their task. I was at a loss for what to do and remain a gracious guest. I closed the cover and disposed of the offending material. I was unable to use the room for my purposes. freshened up as best as I could and returned to our visit, which unfortunatly needed to be cut short. Am I in the wrong for expecting such high standards?
Just sign me,
Dainty in Hunting Valley
Dear Miss Dainty,
Given the situation, your hands were tied and you did the honorable thing by keeping your composure, not raising the issue to your hostess who would have been embarassed to the point of shame that you had discovered her failure. I too would have done exactly as you did, however I see no reason for you to have cut your visit short. Surely you knew logically that once you left the residence of your friend that eventually you would return home for a moment of privacy. Remember, to have control of one's body is to have control of one's life.
I remain, MSS
My father felt that a house with a circular drive way was a sure sign that he had made it in life. Never mind that the house was bland and lacked character, never mind it was all wrong for us, it was that damned driveway that he craved.
The house 3,000 square feet - you can host 300 people in the place and never feel it.
Yet when I drive past it on the occasional and rare trip to Shaker Heights these days, I am torn between my revulsion for the place and by my sense of melacholia for time past, when there was hope for a different outcome.
1969 seems to be the watershed year of the moment. No one is waxing poetic about August 1959, August 1979, 1989 or '99. So I dug around in my picture box and found this little guy, perfectly suited up for an official picture for the family on the eve on first grade at Mercer School in Shaker Heights. No Woodstock hippy for me. It was strictly business in a lovely wool blazer and gold clip on tie and blue slacks.
I think that this was my last school picture until my senior high school picture in which I wore a suit...no, take that back...I wore a dark burgundy sport coat for my third grade picture. Not knowing any better for myself, my mother selected this outfit from Howard's Boys and Men's Shop on Chagrin Boulevard. It was the first time that we went there and that I, not my father or my brothers but I, was the center of the attention.
This, by the way, was the last year that I was happy in going to school until we escaped from Shaker Heights and moved to sanctuary in Marion, Ohio. My teacher for the 1969-70 year was Grace Smiley, a saint of a woman if ever there was one. Kids in first grade are still decent to one and other. Second grade is when the turf starts to get mapped out, alliances are made, and enemies and the weak identified. From that point forward kids can become small assholes that grow into giant assholes.
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
The flying heel is cool, but I like the "Forbidden Planet" sound that it makes...
This cartoon by M.K. Brown ran in the old National Lampoon back in 1986 and quickly became my all time favorite because it is soooo true. So today, Tuesday, August 18, 2009, let's all do the White Girl Twist like we did (or didn't do) last summer...
Monday, August 17, 2009
My mother had a 1965 Chevrolet Impala convertible, and it was an amazing car - the lines, its shapes, the way the tailights leap from the trunk lid; God that car was beautiful.
It came to us, via my father, through a deal that dad had with local Chevrolet dealership. Dad handled their legal affairs, and we got a new Impala for my mother and dad got a Bel Air for himself. My father called from the office one day, and according to my mother, said that Blaushield wanted back the 1962 red Imapala convertible (which he just happened to have that day) asked what color Impala she wanted. After years of Red Chevy convertibles, a '57, a '60 and the '62, my mother wanted something different. "Black. Black, Black, Black," she said somewhat annoyed. So my father went to Blaushield Chevrolet and found a brand spanking new all black Impala for her. Black car. Black vinyl seats, black top. It was the most beautiful thing on wheels. Must have been because I was but a wee me, and even I remember that heart stopping car.
Whatever GM did to design 1965 Impala, evidently struck a chord. They sold more full sized cars that year than ever before. A lot of people fell in love with that car.
Sure you could have fried an egg on the black plastic seats in summer. But sometimes, beauty is more important than comfort. Thats why the 1965 Chevrolet Impala is one of my most perfect cars.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
Today is a happy occassion. My beloved Jack Russell Terrier, my little girl, Bertie (aka Bertie Bertie the Wonder Terrier) is celebrating her sweet 16th birthday. Nearly blind from cataracts, her sniffer still works, her muscle tone is outstanding and she has ALL of her own teeth without cavaties. She has comforted me in my sorrow, given me undying and endless love. If you have ever had a dog, you know that their love makes you a better person; her love has made me a much better person.
Friday, August 14, 2009
Enjoy the weekend! I'll be giving a tour of Upper Arlington, Ohio tomorrow for Columbus Landmarks Foundation - starts at 10AM in front of Jones Middle School.
That would be the Sanford Rosenblatt's, aka Sandy and Mindy, of Pepper Pike, Ohio and Fort Lauderdale. Rosenblatt ran a furniture store of the same name ("Let Rosenblatt's make your house a home") and he was a distributor for CONTOUR (brand) chair-lounge's. His line of furniture is what we called "early Van Aken" (named for the Boulevard in Shaker) that was French provincial, antiqued in white with gold trim, or chandeliers wrapped in brassy gold metal with cascades of crystals favored by my father's people as a sign that they had "made it". What I remember about the store was it was PACKED with furniture.
Periodically my father would do legal work for the store and he would hand it off to my mother to deliver during the day. She would pick me up from school at the end of the day and we would drive for seemed to be an eternity from South Woodland Road, through Warrensville Heights and finally to Maple Heights where the store was. Sandy would try and sell my mother on a "little bit of glamour" but she wasn't having any of it. "Did you see that bed?" she'd ask me. Which one? "The one with the canopy topped by the gold crown. You know why it had a gold crown? Because some women like to feel like Princesses," she'd say. You mean like Princess Grace? I asked. "No, like Rapunzel - girls with a bed like that need to be rescued."
On the other hand father loved Sandy's wares. "Classy stuff," he'd say. When my parents divorced and my father took over the house on South Woodland for his own kingdom, the place filled with with enough French Provincial glamour to cause one to stay on the lookout for angry members of the the third estate approaching the place with their pitchforks raised and demanding the "Austrian whore" for justice.
Sandy Rosenblatt's touch soon groped every wall and room of the house. I may have been ten, but when I say I was appalled by the appearance of a bust of faux Greek god on a golden column in the foyer of the house on South Woodland, its an understatement. Nicknamed "Maximus", the poorly done mass produced sculpture had a bigger place on honor in my father's house than I ever did. "They have just like it in the palace at Versailles," my father said, admiring his latest acquistion from Rosenblatt's. "There's a town with a steel mill in Pennsylvania named Versailles," I offered. "For a know-it-all you don't know much about the finer things in life," my father said, semi disgusted by my objection to his object d' art.
This is something that I have never understood about the Ashkenazi Jews populating Cleveland's east side suburbs back then – why did they adopt this faux French kitsch as the official style of success? My friend Anna said that it has something to do Peter the Great's great shopping spree through Europe – "you know the one where he picked up a few things for Saint Petersburg, including a few dozen French noblemen to live there and give it some class. Its a Russian Jewish thing, like a piece of the old country, right here in the new country” Anna explained to me. “Look at all the years Lenin has been on display under glass, and he's held up pretty well, right?" This is why the Jews encase the furniture it in clear plastic seat covers; if the Winter Palace does not have shabby upholstery, and why should they?
Rosenblatt's store had an entire gallery of those rain lamps - these were swag accent lamps with the Grecian goddess in the center with small spot on her, surrounded by clear strings down which drops of clear oil dripped. As a child, I was enthralled by these in the store's gallery. The "gallery" was darkened hallway lit with black light bulbs that cast a dark glow over the twenty or so lamps of every shape and manner on either side of the passage. Why couldn't we have a room like this in our house? I thought.
As a teenager I was horrified that I had wished such a plague on our house, and that we knew people who had these lamps, and denied that I ever thought that they were miraculous. As an adult looking back I realized how fabulous and horrendous they were at the same time.
Sandy's wife Mindy Rosenblatt, who always wore bright red lipstick even when it went out of fashion, had a Contour chair-lounge that was upholstered in faux tiger hide that had a stuffed tail coming out of its back, she'd recline on what she referred to as her Tony the Tiger and chat on the phone saying "that's nice...hum...well..." “That's nice,” was code for "big deal" whenever anyone said anything that she wasn't paying attention to. Mindy had a 1970 Cadillac Eldorado - royal blue with a faux white wicker top, and a moonroof. It was Hollywood. She loved to start that puppy up, open the moon roof and wave to you as you drove away. For some reason I'm thinking that Mindy was a Blaushield before she married Sandy. Anyway, Mindy played bridge with my mom's friends, and my mother used kvetch about Mindy's latest diet fad.
"Get this," my mother said to me while I had my milk and cookies after school one day in 1971, "now she's scraping her tongue with this appliance after she eats and smokes." In my childlike mind, since an "appliance" was found in the kitchen, I wondered what kind of kitchen appliance could be plugged in and used to scraping ones tongue. I settled on the electric mixer, but decided against taking it for a test.
The Rosenblatt's had three daughters, Sally, Ina and Julie. Julie was in my consecration class at the temple. Sally, the eldest, was involved in little theater musicals and wore stirrup pants. She was very serious about the theater and was given to spontaneous bouts of dancing, high kicking and stretching. "I have short cords," she explained. To this day I have no idea what she was talking about. Ina's hobby was brushing her hair and rolling her eyes in disgust at anything that anyone did. They had a son, Marc, who was much older than I was, and truth be told, I don't think I ever met him.
Sally eventually married a Shenkman; Julie married a Loeb. Last I heard about Ina - she married a Drager, then divorced him - she was that living on a kibbutz in Israel and was bitter about life. Why she was bitter? I have no idea, other than it was the only career that she was born to excel at.
I don't know if Sandy and Mindy are still alive – its been 30 years since I've seen them and they'd be in their late 80s today. I imagine that they are retired, but that Sandy would be selling anyone he who would listen on the importance of covering their fine furniture with clear plastic. And Mindy? I imagine her relaxing on her contour chair, a Parliment cigarette in one hand and a tongue scraper ready in the other, and the phone on hands free, telling the person on the other side "that's nice," everytime there was a break in the conversation.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
In reading our mail today, we find that we have received a very nice invitation from the delightful young man who hosts our mentor blog at Stirred, Straight Up, with a Twist to participate in a rousing round robin party game, as it were, called Name Seven Personality Traits. I have asked myself, what would Martha Smith Standish do if faced with such an introspective excercise, and having courted her in my minds eye, I would say that if Martha were still with us she would say "be honest, not cruel; show emapthy, however do not seek self pity; but above all, dress nicely, take a useful clever gift and above all, be punctual." Well, here goes nothing...
1) I am a believer. I believe in things and people and in concepts, like "things will be better tomorrow than they were today" and that "God is compassionate". I do so because they give me hope and security. Without belief, one could lose sight of ones soul.
2) I am very imperfect. I am troubled by the fact that I am not a better person. I try, but old habits die hard. But I keep trying, and as long as I try, there is hope.
3) I am dyslexic. Struggled with this for years, and you can learn to cope, but you never get over the feeling that you are, in some way, inferior to the mainstream.
4) When I decide to make a major purchase, my mind is decided. For example, when I need to buy a car, I think, I read, I get an idea what I want and what I will pay, I get my loan at the credit union and I go to buy a car. If the dealer gives me bullshit, I walk out and go to another. I do not care about his family, I do not care about his bottom line, and I do not buy a car based on my monthly payments. I don't sit and wring my hands. I'm there to buy a car.
5) I'm a damn good writer. I have had five non-fiction books published, have a good track record with free lance stuff, but there is something else inside in writing that needs to come out. Problem is I don't know how to make that connection between my skill and my minds eye. Its like I need to find that translator between the two, and I don't know how to make it work.
6) I struggle with the idea that its "what you make of your life" that matters more than "what people make of your life". I admit it - I'm shallow - I love things. Being a good person can be hard. But each day we make a little more progress than the day before.
7) I love men. This doesn't mean that I don't think that women are great, I just know what my personal truth is, and it is that I love men.
So there you have it, seven traits...now I'll have to figure out five or so folks with a blog and tag them...who to pick...who to pick...
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The Dirty Drop In had two purposes. First these slide shows of the "McAdams Family vacation to Perth Amboy", or the "McMaster's visiting their son Scotty at camp" were dreadfully long and you need something to break it up. Secondly, you also needed something to wake up your guests because they thought the shows were so dreadfully long and boring, as well.
They worked kinda like this:
Fred: "...here's a shot of what the water skiers look like if you could be out on the water with them at Cypress Gardens...."
"and here's another shot of the women who walk around in these plantation style skirts...I asked Muriel if she would want to wear one and she said...oh, nevermind, you can tell the gals what you said later Muriel" (laughing to himself)
"...and here we have..."
"Whoa, Nelly! How'd that get in here!"
Muriel Johnson: "Oh, Fred Johnson! You're just horrible for putting that awful thing in the show! Well, now listen, Jim Richards you just stop that laughing...shame on you...this is just awful! Betty, how do you live with him! And what...stop it! What if the children saw this? Isn't this just horrible? I can tell you that there was nothing like this at Cypress Gardens because we didn't see a black person, or a chicken I might add, all day! Now Fred, you make this go away and show these folks a lovely view of the singing waters...Really!"
And then the slide show would revert back to the same, boring images of flowers, shots gone wrong, etc.
And why did our parents sit through these horrible slide shows? Because if they didn't watch the McAdams family vacation slides, why should the McAdams family sit through your family slides of Christmas in the Holy Land?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My father had a lot of friends, and many of them reputable men in Cleveland’s growing eastside Jewish gentry. They weren’t the problem. To the contrary, Dad had connections and his real friends were generous to a fault. If you needed an Oldsmobile, you bought from Abe Palunis. Wanted a chocolate phosphate? You went to Danny Boudin. If you needed a can of paint you went down to Pekot's Hardware on Buckeye Road. Never mind if it was out of the way, these guys would take care of you. And if dad didn't know you, then we didn't need what you had. He never knew a Pontiac dealer, so we never had a Pontiac.
My dad's friends weren’t the problem.
The problem was that my father knew a lot of other people, and he tried to believe the best in these people, even if he had met them just once. He would sing the praises of these guys based on his belief that they were the greatest people in the world simply because they had a good handshake, or had said hello during a steam bath at the country club. To hear him talk, these folks could have been his long lost best friend from grade school.
Even though he’s been dead a while, I still hear my father raving about the talents of his buddies. “You know Mort! Yes you do. Mort Rivkin...He took the pictures at the Rosenblatt’s daughter in law's parents 50th anniversary. The guy's work should be hanging in the museum with his own gallery…I'm telling you, he's a Master…”
The guy taking the pictures could have been an axe murderer, but because Dad “knew him” meant that he was a "straight shooter", or it meant that the guy was struggling and had cut my father a deal. More often than not, it meant that the guy was one of Dad’s legal clients and he had to be working as a condition of their parole.
The “photographers” were the worst. They usually showed up without their cameras, and father would "just" happened to have my mother’s slide camera in the car “and what do you know, Mister its your lucky day because its loaded with film,” and off the guy would go with some fuzzy instructions.
The pictures were always horrible, the type of horrible that you can’t share with other people who were at the same event because they were caught doing unladylike things like straighting their slips, or things that gentlemen do like scratching the inside of their noses in an attempt to pick it on the sly, but make it look like a drive by scratching instead.
There’s a reason why these pictures weren't flattering: the guys taking the pictures would get crocked. The Jews of my father’s era were notorious for not drinking, because if you get drunk, “someone can make off with your goods.” But because the Jewish gentry of my father’s era wanted to impress people with their middle class "class", formal functions always had an open bar, like your find at an Episcopalian or Presbyterian guys function. Since dad's "friends" were usually not Jews, when offered an open bar, they drank, and they usually drank a great deal, only to stumble about snapping pictures that they insisted were “action shots”.
This how my mother ended up in my eldest brother’s Bar Mitzvah pictures lacking the top of her head, or just had the back of her head captured in a moment of rare rage given off by my father's sister. Or, how a family picture didn’t get shot at another function because the “photographer” was hitting on my dad’s secretary. Or how every picture at my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary was taken with people’s eye lids closed. "Say what you will, but at least the guy was consist ant," my mother would say.
After the events, we waited to see the pictures, which dad would take the film to a photo lab on the west side of Cleveland. Why did my dad drive forty miles out of his way? “Your father knew this guy who had a photo lab," my mother explained. "I used to call him ‘Vlad The Impaler" because he was always in the dark room doing God knows what. He never came to the front counter – like he would melt in the store light. You had to wait for his wife who was Slovenian to come to the counter she and didn’t speak English, and she couldn't spell.”
What pictures we do have from era are either really good (because my mom hired a professional photographer before my dad could find another guy that "he knew") or really bad, and rose colored. The coloring is a testament to my father's thriftiness. Instead of buying the better Kodachrome film, which was stable and recorded magnificent color, my dad would spring for the less expensive Ektachrome, which, when it breaks down over time, turns everything muddy RED. Forty or fifty years after an event, everyone is pink, ladies lipstick has turned brown and nowhere is there anything green or blue. Even with today's imagining technology, its just easier to switch off the color completely and look at the images as black and white because the color correction would take hours.
By the late 1960s my father had a friend who sold him a Polaroid camera. This did nothing to solve the problem of family event pictures. My father would go through pack after pack of film, yet the pictures don't exist. After that point, my mother has a different explanation: “Your father had this Polaroid. Because there were no negatives, there were no reprints. And he would give these pictures away. No original, no picture. Thank your father.”
What follows are some memories from that 1962 Bar Mitzvah, muddy red, and unflattering. Thanks Dad.
I have no idea what got my Aunt's panties in a knot for this picture. But my mother is listening patiently, probably saying something like "Yes, Evie...You're so right Evie...Whatever you say Evie...I don't think he meant that like that Evie..."
Mom takes a Kent break (without the top of her head) while my Aunt Gladys (my mother's side of the family - a Methodist from down on the farm) nurses a glass of water. My Aunt Shirley (father's side of the family) is seated next to her, enjoying a refreshment; go Shirley, GO!"
Again, my mother is missing the top of her head. But its her face that captures the imagination. What could our Rabbi, lower left in the picture, have said to get that look? "Sol Shenkman's got a deal on bris' - two for one! Know anyone with twins?"
The other thing about this image - she's touching my father. "We" are not a touchy family. Not huggy at all. No "I love" you's. Its just the way it is. So to have proof that my mother is touching my father, even in passing before they started having marriage problems, sends a message that is both poignant and uncomfortable for me.
Monday, August 10, 2009
I've met the young couple that live there now and they are very nice. The house has fared OK in the 40+ years since we moved. With Federal overtones, this house is an absolute classic. At some point in the past 15 years one of the owners nailed up this Victorian decorative crap onto the Living room bay window and the semi elliptical hood over the front door and it looks like crap - the whole point of the Federal styling is its geometric shapes - its plainness is its joy. I hope the folk who live there now rip that shit right off and honor the beauty in its shapes.
Once upon a time, the fall of 1958 to be exact, the Buick family had triplets, LeSabre, Invicta and Electra. The new arrivals represented the next generation of Buicks: the were fresh, modern and manner of hopes were pinned to them.
While LeSabre and Invicta played nicely and shared a number of the same qualities, it was the eldest, Electra - an offspring with multiple personalities, one of which insisted on sometimes being called a "deuce and a quarter" - that always felt she was better than the others. See how she's off by herself? Well La-ti-da!
Invicta, the middle sister was promising, but like most middle children, she was never very popular, just kind of a placeholder. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. The Buick's allowed Invicta to dwindle down to just one body style, and then Invicta disappeared completely in 1964, after being gobbled up by the Wildcat.
However, of the three, it was little LeSabre who lived the longest. She was fleet of foot, offered a good value and was the one for those who aspired more in life. A LeSabre at your house said "these folks have made it, they are not at all pretentious, they value a dollar. LeSabre trudged on through the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. Towards the end, she grow a bit dowdy, and a was the favorite of grandparents everywhere, but she endured. LeSabre soldiered onto 2007 when she finally retired to Lucerne.
And what of little Electra 225?
Electra always had to have the nicest clothes, the best colors and biggest features. Well, lets just say that she got a little "over" developed - you know, grew up, too fast, a real road hog. By 1975 she was no longer leath and lean, she had grown bloated; she was one BIG girl. They tried slimming her down to virtually nothing, and then she was given a sexy new body in 1990. People developed a complex with her, so she moved to Park Avenue, never to be heard from again.
Today the Buick's are left with their two awkward late in life children, LaCrosse and Lucerne. Its a shame, really. There was a time when Buick stood for something - a station reached in life, and Buick was the reward.
Let us hope that dear General Motors doesn't do Buick in like it has to Pontiac and Oldsmobile. Its would be a shame, and sure sign of defeat.