Monday, February 7, 2011

Now Hear This

Soon after we were transplanted to Virginia by the Navy, I sensed that I was not going to be a good little 'Mrs. First Lieutenant'. I say this because within 2 weeks of becoming a Virginian, my husband received orders to report to the USS Harold J. Ellison, a destroyer bound ("I'm sure it's one of those dinghies - figuratively speaking/sailing, used to taxi/outboard you to the HOPE. That was the deal. A HOPE doc, Viet Nam, surgically putting the injured, oozing, US fighters/fliers back together again. ) But, what ho! The HOPE has been recalled, you say? Your really are going to be on a - flagship destroyer? For nine months? And your fleet, most ably-commanded by a 'Commodore', (and I thought Perry was the last of the breed) will deploy for the Mid-East? Friend;y mission? Maybe see you in six months if we can rendezvous in Weisbaden? Baby Philip will love Christmas in Germany with little cousins, romping about in suede liederhosen, lucky to be in the Navy and visiting Air Force godparents-cum-two-little-boy-cousins? OK, then. We're all in this together and apart. Bye. . . .
And so it was that I began my lone epiphany as a military wife - so recently civilian, working blissfully in the first coronary care unit in the country in NYC and then equally blissful re: becoming a mother of our tow-headed, blue eyed, fair and lively and TRES Irish-looking now 11 month-old son. What to do? Mrs. Commodore - as she referred to herself via telephone introduction-cum-invitation to my very FIRST white-gloved, summer- chapeau-ed, be-ribonned and crisp "Luncheon" as an officer's spouse, ie, Mrs. First Lieutenant. (I had so recently shunned NOW because I HAD an identity - indeed it was printed right there on my social security card, nursing and driver's licenses - and had NO concept/inclination to 'become' Mrs. first Lt.". Well. We soldiered/sailored on, Philip and I, and it wasn't long before we were 'manageing", coping with Daddy's absence, following his travels on a map that consumed our dining room wall and was dotted with brightly-colored pins marking the exotic/alien ports at which the Harold Jack, and, therefore Daddy, parked/anchored whilst being militarily friendly. And Daddy was the best doc - had the lives of the entire fleet 5-10 other destroyers - in his red-white-and-blue-gloved and capable hands. (Performed a circumcision on one hapless fellow while rounding the Cape of Good Hope - more on THAT human bandage in another outing.)
We busied ourselves with coping, pre-school, learning to remember that "peach" was, in the South, a 4 syllable word and remembering to tell everyone with whom we were forced to interact to "Have a nice day!". The time came when the speech thing started to become an annoyance. (Philip elected to speak as little as possible) I, ever vigilant and 'in touch' with my environs (when you grow up in Brooklyn, it becomes part of your essence. You could call it 'survival', even). Anyway, I was MOST irked by the seemingly casual and widespread phenomenon of MISPRONUNCIATION which was de rigueur among the broadcast journalism set. So intense and un-palatable became this negative awareness, that I vowed to intervene. Thus began my long association with broadcating, writing, acting and - at least in my humble situation and trappings - a rabid determination to effect change. I must confess that my activities could never be characterized as altruistic. Rather, I enjoyed the challenge. The challenge of insinuating myself into these public forums - broadcasting, acting, teaching creative writing - and somehow succeeding in becoming a part of the genre, all the while - and with conscious determination executed with an oh-so-subtle performance - "talking right, if you will, and varying the old vocabulary almost indiscernibly so that, as a community - of neighbors, fellow-military servants, friends and worker bees, we could "evolve" elocutionally and conversationally. (Getting that word-to-paper transition was going to take time, but I was thrilled with the receptiveness of the unwitting students.
I hope to introduce you to some local luminaries in many public arenae as we go along. And, to be sure, you'll suffer through - as did I - the embarrassments and public indignities brought upon this writer all by herself as she verbally and technically stumbled through the vagaries of being a disc jockey, community theater actress and published writer in Hampton Roads. I hope you will be able to laugh with and not just AT my foibles - God knows I certainly did lest I became doubtful of the "kindness of strangers" and boarded that proverbial 'streetcar' bound for rejection and confinement. On the morrow, then, some bizarre vignettes associated with "Lorane Knight" (on air ID) and how she became one of the very few female DJ's in the seventies and then - because you will have earned it - a glimpse into the talents of the truly gifted on air personnel during this era in this venue. For now, having delved (I trust not too overbearingly and at too great a time span) into dear Cassie's travails last evening, Orpheus again whispers and I'm dashing to his embrace. Later, L. . . .
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