Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Checkin' What Condition My Condition is In

Obviously, I really must work on consistency. It's the distractions, of course. But this last was big - a birthday. Try as one might, these little 'rights-of-passing-time' grab the ole psyche & demand attention. And reflection. And stock-taking - of the 'self-evaluation kind. And as the chips fell this year (would that they could have dipped and scooped something savory, creamy & plentiful - chip behavior far more befitting of a birth commemoration/commendation affair) I was pleased, embarrassed even, to receive several sincere inquiries re: why I was not writing. In truth, I've never met a quandary that plunged me into a celebratory mood and this one took it's place in the ever- lengthening line of similar "fixes-you'd-like-not-to-be-in", floppy quandary feet firmly planted in the quicksand terra non firma. What to do, yada, yada as I stood, 'stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox'. Or sister. Whatever. I'd recently developed an interest in the study of antiquities & thought myself too preoccupied & focused (having begun with myself) to interrupt this inchoate passion. Certainly not by this 'writing thing'. But there truly is nothing to be gained by avoidance tactics, save perhaps peptic ulcer disease, so I vowed to face the "situation", answer the question, do SOMEthing. Sooo, I once again dug around, looking for the muse, the etiology of my affinity for writing. It made sense to re-visit my feelings, analyses, opinions of someone - a writer - whom I knew filled that role for me. Naturally, I also fell back on my other problem-solving activities - dream interpretation. But my main focus, to be sure was a writer under whom I studied, wrote about and clearly saw as something of a Doppleganger. The man was Tony Ardizzone - author, teacher, my "Man Between the Lines", as it were.

(I plunged as well into ye olde Dream Journal. You've been. You perhaps just don't remember. Anyway, I was reading a very telling section of one such analysis - under the circumstances then and now - which contained some dialogue which I'd written in an attempt to get at the meaning of images and words recalled from a dream I'd had centered on my mother's death - clearly a life-changing, direction-altering, numinous event in any one's collection of experiences and, therefore one that renders contemporaneous happenings, ie, dreaming of it, frightfully significant in the short and long run of "this living, this living, this living" as Ms. Parker might tell us.)

His office told stories. Theater posters reminded me of his wife, actress Diane Kondrat, her art, her career. Framed photos of their son, Nick, traced his progress as he looked on his way to being four. Students' and administrative papers vied for the eyes and ink of the man - writer, husband, father, teacher - writer. Books - not leather-bound tomes planted to announce, "Academia lives here." but miss-matched, old/new, vertical/horizontal ones, worn and comfortable from being read. On the door you learned you were in the office of - TONY ARDIZZONE - DIRECTOR OF CREATIVE WRITING. They are not props - the wife, the son, the work. Rather they're loved, nurtured daily. He'd water a cactus & tell you he'd rather talk about his work than himself.

But gracious, polite, this man of letters answered questions. Grew up in Chicago. Dad from Sicily. Mom from Liechtenstein. Two sisters; two brothers. But he couldn't play 'fill-in-the-blanks'. He was a story-teller. Relaxed, dark eyes now merry, now sober, combined with his light voice to share scenes, portraits of people and events that'd molded his life; produced the artist who shared and cared about Hampton Roads. Tony spoke with a gentle intensity and his reverie settled on the room like dusting powder - that his favorite grandmother wore. "My mother would make us crepes for breakfast rolled around fresh fruit. Only she called them omelets." He didn't know until in college that omelets were made with eggs.

(That dialogue I wrote about dreaming about my Mom's death went like this:

Me - So, here we are. I figure I'd better start this conversation since I dredged you up.

Mom - Listen, don't go getting all cerebral and spiritual. I'm here now so let's use the time wisely.Or else you'll just get carried away and you're not supposed to. I am 'cause it's my funeral.

Me - Very funny. I know you mean well but, shit, look at my situation here, will you? I've got to go through the day I've dreaded all my life . . . you went and died first. . . I still can't get over that and now to top it off, I'm talking to you and you're dead.

Mom - that's just the point. I'm still here. Still bitching. Still bugging you. And you'll see. It's a good thing, this continuation of a force, a feeling. You need some grounding. For instance, when I said I had a headache, I didn't mean I had a headache; I meant I had a headache, don't you see?

Me - When you put it like that, who wouldn't see? What's to 'see'? Don't give me parables. Let's talk straight because I've got some big stuff on my agenda, here. You want a headache? I can give you a headache.

Mom - That is the headache. To see you're still so upset about my leaving; to see that you still concern yourself with things that you can't control. That's a headache. I'm dead and that's that. But you and me - that is an always because we are all one. You just have to learn to look, for what, and where.

Me - You know, I can understand that, and that gives me a headache because this is a really freaky conversation. We're pitching around some really freaky notions. I mean, what's it all about?

Mom - Did you just call your Mother a 'freak'?

Me - I know that's supposed to be an attempt at comic relief, but going back to what you said earlier, yes, you're a freak, I'm a freak, all of these 'me's' are freaks because I don't trust the validity of these thoughts. To say nothing of chats with the dead.)

His Father was a printer and teletyper. Always had two jobs. They lived in a flat - second floor of a house - where there were "drunks in the hallway." He was supposed to be named Vito - after his grandfather. But he didn't think he'd be alive or would be a very different kid if he'd had the misfortune of being named Vito. This because Vito was a 'tough' name and he'd have been in more fights. Theirs was a tough neighborhood but by then, the Italian areas in Chicago had been effectively scattered by urban planners - the Democratic Machine.

Both parents encouraged the kids to read, get an education, work hard. "They pushed all of us kids. My Mother would say, 'If you can't get it right, don't do it.' So he'd say, 'Well, then I'm not gonna do it,'which produced 'You do it and don't get smart with me.' from Mom. And it was done and done right. Tony read, always loved reading. He said, "At some point, I really came to understand, appreciate what writers can do. They could take a kid like me and put him someplace else. I thought that was an incredible thing - and envied their power. When I read "How Green was My Valley" I didn't even know where Wales was." It flabbergasted him that this man who wrote the book had a completely different metaphor/background and he was touching Tony, this kid from Chicago. Tony wanted to do this for other people.

(Mom - Thoughts are thoughts.What's to trust? They come in and go out of your railroad station. Some stay longer than others. Some leave a more lasting impression but they should be free to move about on their own course. Now trusting, that's always been more of a problem for you than thinking. You were always looking to me for approval/disapproval when you knew the value of your actions. You just used me as your conscience so that you wouldn't have to take any responsibility. Well, you've got the ball now and trusting yourself might be a good place to start on your 'solo' adventure because you are really all you have. I also think you always knew that.

Me - But I'm so damned weak, easily-influenced, confused, lacking in both experience and any really strong convictions. I wouldn't cross the street on my say-so right now.

Mom - You'll get so tired of that side of the street so fast you won't have to tell your ass to follow you as you run across. You're far more prone to error due to commission than omission.

Me - You got it. I'm impulsive. I'll probably screw up more than just a few times because of it.

Mom - And it will be the best thing that can happen. Because for the first time, it will be your very own screw-up, not one you can say I made you do. And this is how you will learn to trust your own thoughts - they led to actions that were either harmful or beneficial to your process, Either way, you learn something. But eventually, you get tired of screwing up and you GET THE ACTIONS THAT DETER OUT OF YOUR ACT. More importantly, you pursue and hold on to those that are right, good, good for you - and for others. You'll always belong to the people.)

He was laughing at the thought. That he wanted to get other people to other places. He remembered thinking that knowledge would get Tony out of the neighborhood. It was a little scary at the time. There was even a time in middle school when he rebelled. But in his defense he explained that you had to see that 'spelling B's' were dumb. You got punished if you got it right. You didn't want to sit down right away, but if you kept on getting it right, you had to keep standing up there - just you and the smart girls. He won once and said 'Enough!'. He'd look for his best shot. When was it 'respectable to make a mistake? That's where all the fun was. He'd get to sit down and watch the other kids.

He was sent to a college prep high school where 'they' wore cuffed, white pants and 'he' wore black stovepipes. Of course there was a clash and he got tight with the city kids.But I got the sense that it was a treasured difference; no bitterness; acceptance of people and situations. He learned to play well with the hand he was dealt - and really cared about the differences. But it wasn't until after grad school at Bowling Green that his work was appreciated and after getting his degree, marrying Diane and "really working," his first book, "In the Name of the Father", was published and he officially dedicated himself to writing and teaching. Oh, and when he came to Old Dominion, they had Nick. Can eyes turn neon?

After teaching in Morocco for a year, he realized how myopic we were as a 'reading' nation. When asked where the kids are whom he would take somewhere else through his writing he said, "I wanted my work to reach the people who would like it. I don't just write for Americans. If I get lucky, I'll be read by the world. But I'm not going to explain what a refrigerator is. I can't pander to someone who doesn't know the culture. And my concept of my audience will always go beyond the people who live on this land mass." He also feels the community has a responsibility to the writer. He feels they should read. But even then, he thought our society conspired against the quiet moment. And that's because the quiet moment can't be sold. For Tony Ardizzone, that's America in a nutshell - buying and selling. He wanted to take a "crack at the world" and then leave behind some books. He has. He's also received the "gravy" of respectable recognition. Writing - like living - can be a tough, lonely road. But I guess you have to take your best shot.

(Me - Well, as usual, you're right and I must confess I had an incling this would be the deal. Baggage will have to be thrown overboard. I'll have to hurt and hurt some others but the process will out and will triumph because it means survival, facilitating the collective destiny, getting as many people as possible - especially yourself - together.

Mom - Alright. Now that's a big order. Don't expect you'll wake up tomorrow and all your ducks will be in a row. (I don't think I've ever accomplished having them all in the same place at the same time. Row? Really, Mom?) You see the way you think you should go. Now prepare; pack; take only the things you need for any particular part of the trip.

Me - So. What now? You're going back or forward or whatever to your process now, right? And I bury the child and bear the adult. . . DO drop in now and again, won't you?

Mom - I'm here more than you know. Learn to listen.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Of Human Bandage

Just wanted to explain why I haven't written in a while. And, I don't have to tell YOU, dear reader, how TRUE that old saw "A picture is worth. . .". And truth be told, THAT amount/kind of Frolic can lead to Fatigue, Foot cramps, Phony explanations even.
I'll just 'fess up'. Frustrating interruptions are the villains. You know how it goes - If it's not an arm - or some such - it's an elbow. Indeed - and anon - I MUST tell you of a most distressing missive I received from a friend this week. To say it 'gave me pause' (and I don't mean the "mena" variety) would be bordering on rudely blithe. It seems that what was to be a long-awaited, well-deserved and chocked-with-chuckles family ski trip morphed into a painful, life-threatening, embarrassing 'slush show'. Did I mention painful? Broken limbs, six to eight-inch long pins, MONTHS of dreary recuperation - not even able to weight bear for SIX more weeks! And this dear soul, you wonder, with hungry curiosity? The Dougger. Doug Reidel. I just wanted to find that damned old CAP, get on a plane & lend a few 'practiced' hands in Columbus.
(Of course, while sitting at my desk, trying to find some words of comfort, potentially POSITIVE sequelae to such a "life-comes-to-a-screeching-halt" event, a ?soupcon of humor/irony? - my eyes (dragging my mind along) wandered to a framed poem, presented to me by my children, on the occasion of having my very own office. Started reading it - you know how your thoughts stray (Hell mine have gone missing for MONTHS!), I focused on their first two stanzas, the 'medical' memories of this Coda. To wit: "If I were a Cadillac/ I'd be pink with wheels of black./ A white ragtop and leather seats/ I'd sing with Jimmy in the heat.
If I were a nurse one day/I'd mend the heart/ wash tears away./ Hold the hand of people scared/ And comfort the souls of those who pray." And I thought, "Wow. Marge REALLY needs to hop into that car & groove with the Parrotheads. (Doug & Marge, you guys, I do believe, will in fact share a GRIN or two, when the one who penned most of this opus is revealed.)
I guess it reveals a lot about 1. our feelings about ageing (as far as we're concerned, we don't.) and 2. the classic "Father-Son" relationship, wherein the teacher often becomes the student; the kid "could never beat/keep up with the old man; the only difference between 52 and 26 is numerical. Because apparently 'Old Dougger' was still "young" Dougger but 'dem bones' were hiding a few surprises. Mr. Brittle was there carrying on high with Ms. Inflexibility; The Reaction/Reflex Twins were feeling feisty in tow; Fight AND flight had hung back at the lodge, laughingly insensitive to their respective responsibilities while all-too-enthusiastically sloshing toddies. And, to be sure "Blinding (bitch) Fear" totally OUT-GLARED the usually lovely "Sun-Induced (bleached) Squintess-of-the-Downhill" so Marge, daunted but devoted, could only bribe Mr. Willpower to enlist Ms. Action whilst nullifying the tip-toe-approaching Nausea Groupies. So when all was said and done - we could ALL hit our knees and say "a few" to St. Bernard et al.
(THAT kind of near-miss loses NOTHING in the re-telling. Again I was drawn to the framed things said: "If I took up writing verse/ It wouldn't have to be for purse./ I'd write with love, and thought, and pain/ I'd share my heart with the universe./ I'd write 'bout numbers and letters and lives,/ my writing style would be alive,/ Not in one place, two place, three,/ But on any page it wants to be./ With flair and muster, I'd pen a few, writing 'bout ones whom we once knew." Marge, best friend of my husband's favorite (of four) sister, Eileen, has been part of his family since the girls were in kindergarten and part of ours - through Eileen - for lo these 41 years. So, then, I guess - as my kids hinted - I write 'bout those I knew yesterday, today and tomorrow. Just recently, I used the salutation "My New Best Friend, Marge" in an email.)
Tough as it will be, these LONG, arduous weeks of recovery will be lightened by the love and relationships that are PRIMO in "the kids", ie, Marge's AND Eileen's. They are not just CLOSE, they are united by shared lives and the baggage (happy and sad) that they share. They'll visit, hang out, PUSH Marge & the Dougger through pitiful remorse (I'd give it 7 - 10 minutes) right into perseverance and the PRIDE worthy of hard-fought-for recovery. And they'll laugh - because they-are-FUNNY AND FUN and because the alternative nets you 'nada' and they're too SMART for that. The Dougger's rehab will be 'all it can be' and NEVER an "act". Not that 'strutting one's hour across a stage signifies nothing.'
(In "My Life According to My Offspring", I read how that works: "And if I chose to act on stage,/ My passion would be all the rage./ 'She made me cry.' the people'd say,/ and made them laugh for tricks next day../ I'd sing and dance for legion crowds/ or just a few,/ if it's allowed. /It wouldn't be for them, you see?/ It would be for ME to see. For if life's a play, and I'm on stage,/ then I'M the one to write the page/ of goods and bads to happen next./ You might say mine's a living text." Ah, Marge, you must be getting warm re: the largest contributor. (No pun but it's true in size) It's the God-child of Eileen (who gave the very EARLY instruction in elf-like devilry and Irish artistic humor and YOUR favorite drinkin', memory-lane-'n buddy in Cleveland.)
Now there is ALTERNATIVE assistance for the Dougger, Marge and Fam. We DO have "connections". Yes, Eileen WAS "fun and games" BUT - as we ALL know - both she AND her favorite brother only PLAYED after the 'brain work' was 'fait accompli'. In THIS instance, I'm certain - & know that Eileen's FOUR wonderful sons, friends as well to the Reidels - will agree that in a "blink" of a jaundiced, blurred but loving EYE, we can have an experienced, strong, faithful AND related aide 'in the house', cooking, cleaning, wershing AND executing the doctors' rehab orders relating to the Dougger. Marge's onus eases, Dougger is in capable hands and progress goes forth ALL THE WHILE obviating the need for that drudge of "all-work-and-no-play". Moreover, we are more than happy to help. Just say the word. (Pick any word you like.).
(I speak from experience here. Even as I gaze fondly at my framed, inchoate literary masterpiece, 'proud as PUNCH' of my little ones, I again pass along THEIR WISDOM: "I'd play with cards till hours dark/ Calling bluffs with winning spark./ I'd play the game of life, you see?/ with balls and chips - and cookbooks, too, / (although I'd rather BUY the stew!)/ I'd read and play and think and BE/ For that is what life IS for me.)
You simply need not worry another sec about the Dougger, Marge. You two have raised wonderful little 'copers' whose love, dedication and abilities will dovetail nicely with the "HELPER" whom we shall send forth. It will be like - well - EXTENDING the Fam!
(I KNOW, Marge, that you, like me, are the subject of these last poetic words of homage written from the hearts of babes: "And if I were a Mother, my name would be Lorane/ My life would be to catch the games/ and hold the hand and ease the pains/ of my OWN kids and others', too/ A mother's job is never through./ I'd help fix toys of wood and tin,/ hold my course through thick and thin./ For 'mothering's' a chore for some,/ For me, I'd play with more aplomb./ Life could throw me things for worse,/ but life goes straight, not in reverse./ I'd stay my course with passion strong,/ steering clear through right and wrong./ See, they could never break my back/ or drive my new pink Cadillac.")
There you have IT and you, and Dougger and the KIDS - ALL of them. And now, take a deep breath, relax and know that from this point forward, whilst the Dougger heals, you'll beam with your brood and enjoy the culinary (and OTHER) surprises of your NEW helper, a guardian angel who just HAPPENS to be ready, willing and able to fit in, white glove-like, perhaps in time to dec the house in merry GREEN!
Later, Lorane. . .. .

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reincarnation: Yes? No?

Do you ever just NOT want to play? Tired? A bit down? Wishing you were someone. . . .WHERE else? Tonight was going that way and then I
checked mail, started a neat chat with a favorite pal and - almost a BONUS - 'ran into' one of my nephews on Facebook. And Bingo I started feeling like my usual responsible, reliable, ln-touch-with-reality self. (Please see photo at left)

(One of the things - of all things - I spoke with my nephew about was literery references. And how he had just recognized one that I'd tossed out inadvertantly, actually reflexively as I had just re-noticed some recent photos of him. He was all duded up for his "Barristers' Ball" affair. Of course MY style of free association took me back - not to my law school days where the normal mind might venture - but to the Roaring Twenties-Dorothy Parker-Algonquin Table Set-quotes arena. Anyway, I suggested a little diversion. So whilst I drivel on about my strong affinity/familiarity with this Era, I'll toss out some literary tripe of the time and we can ALL play, "Who Said That?" Here we go: "I was an indifferent caretaker of my talents." That's the toss, not a glimpse of autobiography.)
As Mom worked, I had many babysitters - starting at an early age. My Grandpa was my favorite but I had a pretty, smart, athletic and very 'into' song/dance second cousin who frequently had the duty. And it was Joan - in truth Joanie - who taught me a slew of songs and the many and not-so-easy moves that went with the WONDERFUL Charleston. It was the BEST of History lessons and Joanie was an accomplished instructor. We'd 'do it up' withheadbands, feathers, long strands of pearls, MAKEUP. Whew! five, six, seven eight. . . .
("Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses.")
We'd get books with lots of pictures from the library; I began reading more biographies of gals who were the real deal - Isadora Duncan, of course, although not "known" for her Charleston, was a particular favorite; go to Marx Brothers movies, hoping for a "ballroom scene"; I even learned about the Lah-Dee-Dahs who danced and played "in full dress" on the Hindenberg. It's true. Those people dined and danced and played "in style". so by the time I was in MY teens, I was all about Elvis and Motown and sock hops BUT, I saved all of MY extra earnings to go into the City and see a Broadway musical. Because THOSE people had "IT". Actually, "It" was a book by an English author, Eleanor Glyn, published in 1927. I submit, however, that this "quality" of 'IT' was around long before then. I guess Clara Bow was the 'official "IT" Girl, but 1. I don't believe it was restricted to women and 2. The quality was not acquired - "IT" was HAD or NOT.
("Would you like to sin/ with Eleanor Glyn/On a tiger skin/Or would you prefer/to err with her/on some other fur?")
I wanted and sought "IT". I've already mentioned the Marx Brothers. They certainly had "IT". But so did Fanny Hurst, Babe Ruth, Clare Booth Luce and charles Lindberg, to name a few. This strange quality attracts both sexes; the possessor is totally un-selfconscious, full of self confidence and indifferent to the effect they have on others. For me, the Charleston was the physical manifestation of these qualities - the movements say indeed require, reckless abandon of discipline and overdone structure. Look at Ernest Hemingway, Zelda Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe - yes, they were also usually drunk but with panache, "IT", if you will. They were also hugely talented and bright. Most contributed to Harpers and The New Yorker. They were even called "The Smart Set." They were also capable of the "lows" that were equal to their "highs." They suffered, one might say, at the hands of their talents. I was hoping I'd be able to skip THIS PART and just perfect that funky "knee-move" in the Charleston.

("These are the saddest of possible words:

'Tinker to Evers to Chance.'

Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,

Tinker and Evers and Chance.

Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,

Making a Giant hit into a double -

Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:

Tinker to Evers to Chance.")

As time went on and our lives moved along - Joanie married and moved to Peoria; I went to Georgetown, married a Hoya who still practices Emergency

Medicine because he didn't become the shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates; we
had four beautiful children and I ALWAYS sang Joanie's songs to them and made
certain they at least had the exposure to learn/love dance if they so
chose. And although I tried - hard - and loved and laughed alot, I couldn't
avoid the suffering. Had to make time for the pain. One of our
children was taken from us. It will always hurt. But I'll always
sing and dance and continue to teach our six grandkids the same "numbers".
Bye the way, are they the Kids who have "IT"!


("there's little in taking or giving,

There's little in water or wine;

This living, this living, this living

Was never a project of mine.

Oh, hard is the struggle, and sparse is

The gain of the one at the top,

For art is a form of catharsis,

And love is a permanent flop,

And work is the province of cattle,

And rest's for a clam in a shell,

So, I'm thinking of throwing the battle -

Would you kindly direct me to Hell?")

I still think I was a part of "IT" - The Jazz Age, Roaring
Twenties - the whole picture including the music and dancing. But at
times it presents a picture of nervous angularityI recall reading that Isadora Duncan suggested mating the
beautiful, creative people of the world - outside of marriage of course, thereby perpetuating the beautiful and creative. In fact, she wrote to
George Bernard Shaw suggesting the kind of children the two of them might produce, honestly expecting him to father one of her children. GBS was not to be the man.

("What if they had my beauty and your brains?")

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Little Night Magic

Oy. The last post I got up here was. . . well WASN'T what I'd intended. I was ATTEMPTING to introduce a "style" of column-writing that I used 'back-in-the-day' when I indeed wrote a regular, monthly column published by HAMPTON ROADS SURROUNDINGS MAGAZINE. The format was the execution of TWO different 'stories' running together (a Dorothy Parker specialty) distinguished by the main 'story' sans indicators while story #2 set off by parentheses & interspersed at intervals. Well. End result: dismal failure. Now in fairness to me, dear reader, a large part of the formatting failure was secondary to a computer virus. In fact, I couldn't use my trusty friend for several days and TLC by a competent tech. But i, too am to blame for not at least prefacing this awkward literary technique with a bit of warning/explanation.

So, by way of - it is hoped - remedy, I've elected to re-write a 'story' originally done in my column and utilizing that elusive but effective-when-you-get-it technique. It is about a REAL personality, popular in the 80's who did what I oh-so-envied: hosted a radio call-in news talk show. What follows, then, is nothin' but the truth.
A Little Night Magic from the Call-In Man
(Ham and wry from Charlie, the wizard of words who keeps half of Hampton Roads huddling around their radios half the night.)
First of all, scotch any rumors that Charlie Huddle is a fat, old inflammatory commentator. He's tall (6'5"), of medium build, and only forty-four. Perhaps expecting a Howard-the-Wolf-Cosell, one is instead faced with a warm, brown-eyed, bespecled 'panda' of a man who speaks slowly, deliberately, in a full, resonant voice.
"I'd rather be quoted than swooned over any day," he tells me so you can see that Charlie is just the boy who was cut out for interviewing and, more importantly, hosting a news talk show.
Now for some, a news talk show would rank as entertainment somewhere between a sprig of mint and a single roller skate. But the ratings of WTAR's "Call-In Show" would lead us to believe that those people would be in the minority. And the powers that be, showing a convincingly aristocratic disregard for the minority, went out on something of a broadcasting limb in their placing of Charlie Huddle at the helm of a four-hour call-in talk show, six nights a week.
In talking with Charlie, it is borne home that his is (at least) a dual career. But a choice had to be made for our purposes - such as they are - so you will be meeting Charlie Huddle, host of the "Call-In Show". That's how it must be. I will NOT discuss Charlie Huddle, the magician. Some other time, maybe. By no means a parvenu in the broadcasting arena - he was doing live interviews of restaurant patrons at The Green Derby in his hometown of Ivanhoe, Virginia when he was just a cunning little shaver of sixteen, Charlie has had a rather flamboyant track record which has had him hired and fired at least ten times in as many cities over the past fifteen years. The recurrent impedimenta to his tenure seem to be his strong anti-racist and anti-war sentiments and not-so-strong tendency to keep his opinions to himself.
In Charlottesville, during the late sixties and early seventies, he was fired nine different times - rather ceremonially - by WINA without actually leaving the station's employ. He was outspoken, abrasive, argumentative and had a little way of attending anti-war demonstrations and sit-ins and then refusing to disburse that got him arrested several times. You can see where that would make his employers edgy in Charlottesville although they were edgy in Minneapolis as well. He finally left Charlottesville for a variety of reasons he says - "advancement and more money in Minneapolis" plus a "small cadre of white supremacists " who had a little way of applying pressure to the station.
Charlie neither boasts nor laments his alleged approbrium. He likes to think of himself as successful - and not just successive - at what he does. He's interesting because he's interested. He's been an announcer, an actor - Shakespearean and non, a lighting and set designer, a welder, a farmer. His formal education was at UVA in engineering. Some type of Renaissance Man, is what we may have here, folks.
(I DO wish I could tell you about his magic act. You'd LOVE hearing him say, "When we do something like dividing a girl into six parts, we don't emphasize the cutting or the torture." Was I glad to hear that! Or about how he "did the buzz saw years ago and had actually contrived for it to throw a stream of tiny bits of blood and flesh out into the front rows.")
Enough of the past. Currently, the man is a monitor of sorts, plugged in to the people and events of Hampton Roads via those telephone lines. With a relaxed candor that is met with infrequently, he spoke of his callers and guests.
"Sometimes a caller is being such a buffoon that I just heap the most extravagant harshness on him." As the brands of buffoonery range from the idiopathic to the drug-and-alcohol-induced, one can extrapolate to the type and intensity of harshness. In the more serious discussions on politics and economics, he tries to avoid name-calling. This is especially true of race issues and peace and war. THERE run the long fibers of Huddle's prejudices! He concludes, "After you've called someone a racist, what remains of the conversation?" What indeed.
People DO go on. If, after Charlie says, "Go ahead. You're on the air," some caller counters with, "Stop me if you've heard this," the "Call-In Show" would be two instead of four hours. But they don't when he does, so it isn't. Even his guests often display too rich a gift for utterance. Charlie cuts them off - sometimes smoothly, sometimes not so.
"I feel an obligation to be civil to my guests . . . I don't invite what I consider to be 'garbage' into my studio." Elaborating on that point - with a furrow in his brow, his face assuming a slightly soiled look - he spat, "If I had had Robin Cook on when he said 'Andrew Young was Jimmy Carter's pet Coon', I'd have said 'You're garbage and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out'." He feels it would be more public-spirited of Cook and others like him to mail such comments to the zoo.
Rather than resort to unpleasant scenes and repercussions - apparently there were some doozies in South Boston and Minneapolis - he avoids having his 'bete-noires' on his show. Tom Johnson, President of the School Board, for example, will not have an invitation forthcoming. "If I voiced all my thoughts about or to him," Charlie allows, "he'd probably be able to sue and collect." Speaking of which, I asked him whether he was sometimes a little bit short of spontaneous, more guarded, HERE than in other cities. "Yes. I am. It would be a wrong thing for me to do otherwise. If I were to place (my employers) in an indefensible position. . . .I could bring down the castle." And, too, Charlie has his health to consider.
(If I WERE telling you about his magic, you'd see those other sides of Charlie - the puckish, the lyrical. But I must refrain. From telling you his favorite illusion is levitation. "I lean in the direction of having a beautiful girl in a diaphanous costume, stretch out full-length who floats in the manner of a person who would float when sleeping. . . . It's poetic, enchanting.")
We were talking about health. Charlie is genuinely impressed with the facilities and people in the medical profession in Hampton Roads. He is concerned, however with, "What would happen if the funding ever dried up?" He loves having doctors on the show to discuss such potential crises, although his invitations have been ignored of late. It seems lawyers are advising their clients NOT to go on talk shows. What physician, one wonders, would want to miss the opportunity of sparring with the caller who asked Charlie, "Would you agree that the AMA is a capitalist pig organization?" The shores of the Chesapeake Bay remain as moist as ever in the face of such observations. And I guess there would be takers but it was clear that nothing THAT caller said could detain Charlie past bus time.
And isn't THAT something that has this town a-whisper. Busing. His intensity HERE makes the Robin Cook thing sound like a sneaking, tip-toe performance. "I keep trying to tell myself that the School Board isn't villainous; isn't just like the 'old Norfolk Establishment' trying to re-segregate schools, but I can't make a case for them and they seem completely disinterested in making a case for themselves." Then, in an interesting glimpse of autobiography, he went on to say, "It's only because I'm too civilized, and old and tired, to bring myself to picket their homes and throw eggs at them." Furthermore, "As a parent, I would not have been able to get terribly excited about the inconvenience. It seems to me that busing is a tiny, tiny, tiny price to pay."
Charlie lives in an integrated section of Norfolk. He sees improvement in race relations in Hampton Roads but it is slow. "Each generation will be just a little bit better because the parents work so hard to inculcate the children.." By way of illustration he spoke of "a beautiful little black girl who rode past me on her bicycle the other day. She was smiling and when she reached me, she hissed, 'Mother . . . . . .!' That's so sad, you know? Because it wasn't a prank. It was hate."
While his emotional oil was running hot, he mentioned a few things around town that annoy him, although compared with what he calls "massive resistance" to integration, most other 'problems' leave the gentleman with hair unturned. He cavils with the Blue Laws which he sees as "ridiculous and contributory to the breakdown of law and order." He indicts religious groups in this area as well as in the horse racing and parimutuel betting in Virginia. Charlie LOVES horse people - not the underworld types and touts - and does NOT believe horse racing would bring an influx of criminals to the area. More strongly than his feelings about these issues, are those on interference by any large, too powerful, organized religion.
(Did you know that the rabbits used in the magic acts are of the same sex? So they don't get on one another's nerves? AND that they undergo negative training: ie, ". . .a fresh rabbit is better. It looks more bewildered and astonished.")
Having finished our probing into the people and life of Hampton Roads, Charlie began to wax philosophical. "I try to figure out what I really think about things rather than just what I SAY I think." He has, as a companion piece to THIS metaphysical inquiry, a favorite example. It has to do with species and how some are endangered. "In theory, although I value people more than animals, and there are very few imaginable cases where I would say a person and an animal are on a par, (AND THEY MIGHT BE???) I value species more than I value people in my hierarchy." I'm sure you're curious as to what brought on all of THIS bruhaha. Well, I had heard Charlie ask the question, "Given the choice, would you kill the last ten people or the last ten tigers?" He said HE would kill the people, preferably ones he did not know.
Now I yield to no one in my admiration for tigers as a species, but I was strangely comforted to be among the KNOWN in Charlie's life. I asked which ten people would make the job easier for him. He chuckled, as if to toss the query off as rhetorical but then added, "Well Tom Johnson and some School Board cronies would be primo candidates." He was laughing. And not to worry. We still have lots more than ten tigers around. Right? Remember, this is a guy who's good at what he does AND a guy who doesn't think it's bad to say something outrageous.
(He's also the guy who said, "This is what life IS for me - doing a magic show and getting a standing ovation which is honestly motivated." But that's another Charlie. . .uh. . .story.)
Hope ya 'got' it! L. . . .

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Don't Move!

Seems like days since we last communicated. (Think it was EASY getting my cap back? Huh?) It's the PACE we keep these days. And I know you'll agree, dear reader, some days are "pace-ier" than others. Or SEEM to be. I mean who can remember when "hectic" becomes a way of life rather than a description. Here, in our little fam corner, we were all set for an axciting stream of 'Kodak Moments' as it was one of those RARE occasions when the entire crew would be in one place. By way of celebration as well as 'never-to-be-forgotten' group learning experiences, I had purchased tickets to a professional production, on tour, of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown". It was for the 2 P.M. Saturday performance. Our daughter Julie, having had time to settle-in with 2 year-old Mia by then, I thought two was a good time. Molly (6 and a half years very old) would have played her 9:30 A. M basketball game at the Y and been with cousin Emma ( 3.5 years and VERY excited) to dress-for-the-theater. We would meet at the theater, retrieve tickets and MAYBE have time for a 'bite' pre-curtain. It would be 'hurry-up-and-wait' but SO worth it.
(On a different note, that reminds me of today because it was more of a RARE 'wait-and-then-hurry-up' kind of occasion - the NOT exciting but 'oh-so-worth-it-nevertheless' annual mammogram. Screening for ANYone's potential cancer never shows up on a "favorite things' list but then. . . . I got there in a timely fashion - always a plus - and just have to say that it was the most UNUSUAL of experiences. I actually left the facility LAUGHING!)
As it turned out, we easily found parking close to the theater, Julie and I got a table & ordered lunch for us and Mia (that would be "yunch" for Mia), and Jen arrived with Molly and Emma just in time to share and squeal and squirm and SO on. They were color-co-ordinated) a totally desultory development), creatures of total 'theatrical' decorum - given the fact that they couldn't WAIT to see Charlie Brown but 'tolerated cheeseburgers sans childish 'theatrics', and conducted themselves with tolerance and patience (walk, stop, "smile girls!", snap, snap, walk , stop, "Stand with GiGi - Mia's still having a struggle with 'hard "g's" so we gave up on 'Grams' until she's 'there - ladies!", "and look at Mommy and smile!", snap, snap and I know you get THAT PICTURE) until we were FINALLY in the beautiful, deco, marble/plush carpeted Roper Theater - where Charlie Brown had been for HOURS, to be sure, waiting for them. (It's probably only fair to say, at this juncture, that Mia LOVES and is quite the devotee of Charlie & the gang. Venue, you may fairly ask? She watches the ANIMATED cartoon productions on cable TV. And Emma is an equally loving follower - and a precocious, tenacious reader. She is also completing her FIRST year of "Creative Movement" a wonderful combination of "Introcuction to Ballet and Tap" incorporated with musical theater components. Molly, a three-year veteran of ballet, tap and jazz who is deleriously excited about adding "Musical Theater" to her repertoire next year AND is Big Sister to 3 year-old Patrick, had a 'trunkful' of 'smell-of-the-greasepaint'-reasons to get her 'Playbill', to her seat and a real-life gander at the 'gang' dancing and singing - on stage, live - as Charlie and his friends. Good Man, indeed!
(And you know the folks who man the mammogram department at the hospital are more than "good". They are very special. They are acutely aware that those entrusted to their care will have with them emotions that run the gamut from dispassionate 'sense of duty' to emotional stability-stripping, all-encompasing FEAR and - often 'WITHOUT THEM' proper proof of identification, insurance, a sense of comity or courtesy stemming from the former - such that this 'staff' must be willing, accepting, loving, understanding, gentle and, if at all poossible, reassuring to the point of changeing fear into forbearance - freedom, even, from distress. Well, unfortunately, today the beginning of the process was snagged, causing delay. The (very dear lady) in charge of the registration/recordation of one's profile, ie, "who are ya and how're you gonna pay", information, was not familiar with one of my insurance payors and it took a while to render this data valid and "enter" it in the proper order. I was fine. No pressing appointments until physical therapy in almost 3 hours - necessary after the merry "exposure-to-the-Arts" weekend).
Upon entering the theater - having departed the lobby - we set about snagging some GOOD self-seats. Center, orchestra had availability - as well as a great view of the orchestra pit with its inhabitants busy tuning, testing, page-flipping which got MIA'S attention for a bit before she noticed that THE thing to be doing was leafing through the program - like her 'big cousins were doing. Jennie had entered the row first so she was at 'stage-right-guard, while Julie assumed 'stage-left-guard' with GiGi in the aisle seat. While the Moms used had signals and "mouthing" of key words to exchange information re: what diversionary props (edible & non) they each had secreted in their respective purses, GiGi wondered whether they served alcoholic libations at intermission. Julie asked me, "What's the over/under on making it to Intermission?", thereby dashing my hopes of any LIQUID relief. She then (as the little thespian-ytes seemed to be getting into some seat-changeing, stand-up/sit-down, drop-stuff-on-floor movement) inquired of the VERY patient, seemingly-bemused, patrons in the row behind us, "Betcha didn't know you'd payed to see THIS show, too, right???"
("We'll start with the right.", from the very competent technician. You see, finally, paperwork/legitimacy-litmus-tested activity completed, a pleasant, cheerful, Donna called my name. I gathered my "stuff" and followed her 'back' to the undressing area. We were good. No deodorant, oils, whatever. Just don gown - which opens in the front (NO!) & come out when you're ready. OK's all around. "Did you bring a purse?" (BRAIN: No. Just all of my ID cards stuffed in my bra. MOUTH: "Why, yes." "Well, you'd best bring that with you.") And we trundled down to the computerized-to-the-max 'imagery' suite.)
We were two minutes from 'curtain' and I prayed that as the house lights came down, the stage lights would contemporaneously come up. We were still dealing with 'scared-of-the-dark' issues in our group and GiGi, for one, would have a bona fide panic attack if those engineers didn't respect the fact that it is de rigueur to maintain a lighted ambience during performances for children. But they were bright - the engineers. And no one had to endure a theater going 'black' pre-"SHOWTIME, FOLKS". Now - in order of AGE - Mia squinted in that "What the . . .?" way when the cartoons did NOT appear on this epic-sized TV; Emma, lover of music & movement, gave it about 15 munutes before telling Mommy, "This is fun! I'm gonna go up and dance WITH them; Molly, eyes huge, entranced, smiled dreamily and laughed/applauded appropriately. The Moms fidgeted - but watched the show. GiGi was enamored of the quality of the whole schtick - actors, sound, choreography, score, lighting. The people behind us seemed entertained - and quietly so. Of course all manner of goldfish, Puffs, whatever, were consumed, spilled enjoyed. And everyone - albeit at varying and different times - laughed, clapped, climbed, danced etc., randomly but truly enthusiastically. At one point, Julie whispered, "We-re sitting in those empty seats to the left for Act II. If we're here."
("Here we go. It's really amazing. The radiologist will be able to pull up LAST year's digital of the right and it will be on the same screen as this year's. OK. Now just relax - (BRAIN: You have just locked my right boob in a VERY strong vice.) - and "DON'T MOVE." (BRAIN: You're KILLING me. Who the H___? What moron would/could MOVE under these circumstances?? Huh?") "OK." She approached to change the machine's angle; explained why; RE-CLAMPED right boob; walked to safety of non-radiated imagery area to say, "Here we go. Now just relax and DON'T MOVE!". As she appoached to get going on the other side, I lost it. "What's so funny? "Well every year - and I'm a former nurse, I can't help but wonder who writes your script? I mean "Don't MOVE?" "Oh, you'd be surprised. Your 'gum chewers. Did you know your whole body moves when you're chewing gum?' (BRAIN: "How about a 'No gum chewing during exam" sign?) MOUTH: "Right. Didn't think of that." And then she actually rambled on - with consumate 'perk' (this staff is nothing if not perky.) about the many OTHER REASONS women 'move' during the exam. I focused with every fiber of determination on NOT moving because I was laughing. (Not yet on her list). Bottom line in mammo suite: DON'T MOVE.")
And Intermission came. And conferences were held in the lobby. Decisions made. Julie would take Mia and Emma (who WOULD have made it to the end but NOT without Mia) and Jennie, Molly and GiGi would remain for Act II. Bottom line in Live Theater. When taking three very bright, talented, cute, entertaining grandpeeps to see "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown": Delegate to the "good other, real MEN in the family." They can handle ANYTHING. They're just 'naturals'.
Later. L. . . .

Don't Move!

Don't Move!

Don't Move!