28 January 2009

Time Machine

If you look off to the right, it will give you a hint as to why my personal Tardis is warming up for time travel, though I do wish David Tennant would do a drop by and give me some hints about the future. If you do not understand the contents of that past sentence, just ask because I've probably dropped in on the wrong parallel universe.

Today's visit is to 1956/57 and the release of That'll be the Day among others. There was quite a change in music during that period with the appearance of Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Buddy Holly ... three examples of the Southern Rock scene that turned into hit making machines during that time. Jerry Lee married his 12 year old cousin and ruined his career for a while until "The Killer" made a major comback decades later. Holly died in 1959 and there will be a blog about that next Tuesday. Presley went on to be "The King" with hit after hit, star of mostly B movies, Las Vegas performer and dead at only 42.

That was all to come later. In 1956 when I was 12, it was dance parties in garages, first boyfriend, and a "A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" in an age where girls remained on their feet until they were in their Senior Year in High School. Now when hanging out with girlfriends, the lights did go out, the record players of the time were put on full base, and a whole lot of fantasies got programmed to the tune of "Heartbreak Hotel". I do have a small confession about that because I really liked the B side better: "I Was The One".

So what were the first songs you remember dancing to at parties?

Peggy Sue because there wasn't a really good copy of That'll Be The Day

Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On

I Was The One

27 January 2009

There Is No There There

The quote "There is no there there" appears in Gertrude Stein's Book _Everybody's Autobiography_. When Stein returned to California from France on her lecture tour to the United States in the 1930s, she wanted to visit her childhood home in Oakland, CA. She records that she could not find the house. Hence, "there is no there there."

This is an experience common to people who have left a childhood home only to return many years later. In their mind they know that locations where they have lived have changed over time, but somehow they expect "home" to be different ... a protected space held sacrosanct in memory. The disappointment is almost palpable to see larger crowds, bigger buildings, wider roads, and missing stores all filled with unfamiliar people.

Sometimes whole buildings disappear to be replaced by some modern atrocity. Here is an example from just one of my hometowns. The beautiful Fresno Courthouse.

Foundation work started on 1 October 1874 and completed on 19 August 1875. The Board of Supervisors met here for the first time on 6 September 1875. In 1878 about four acres of land around the courthouse were landscaped with the first planting of trees. Landscaping was completed in 1888. The building was demolished in 1966. Unfortunately, this beautiful old building was replaced by this:

The Board of Supervisors who voted for this destruction despite public protest were all replaced in the next election. Unfortunately, it was too late to correct their mistake.

Have you ever gone "home" to find that there is no there there?

25 January 2009

Manic Monday - Snow

As I may have mentioned (repeatedly, ad nauseum, will the woman please shut up), I was born and raised in California. This meant that I had never seen snow falling. On three occasions we did drive to the mountains for a visit after it was on the ground and half melted, but that was it. Then at the age of 40, I moved to Washington DC for almost three years.

My favorite place to be almost every weekend was the National Mall where I haunted the museums for all of the history and art or just enjoyed the sheer beauty of the buildings seen through the trees.

Then came the day of the first snow. I looked out the windows of the U.S. Chamber and there it was all soft and fluffy and falling on Lafayette Park with the White House half shrouded in the swirling flakes. First I opened the window and put out my hand as all the easterners started laughing. Then I stuck out my tongue to do what kids have been doing every winter for millenniums. This sent a couple of people rolling on the floor. Then I raced down the marble stairs to spin in the falling snow.

Luckily, it was a Friday and the snow kept coming. That weekend I got to see the Mall with fresh snow and in the evening the tiny fairy lights in trees on the surrounding streets and all the glistening reflected shine. As with all magical moments, this too came to an end with brown slush on the streets, slippery melted wetness in the Metro, buying my first real winter coat and so on.

But as with all things magical. It was great while it lasted. This brings us to this week's musical selection about another type of great while it lasted magical events.

To join in on the fun, visit Manic Monday

Year of the Ox

The Sign of the Ox

Invariably solid and dependable, Ox people are excellent organizers. Oxen are systematic in their approach to every task they undertake. They are not easily influenced by other's ideas. Loyalty is a part of their make-up, but if deceived they will not forget. Oxen do not appear to be imaginative though they are capable of good ideas. Although not demonstrative or the most exciting people romantically, they are entirely dependable, and make devoted parents. Oxen are renowned for their patience, but it has its limits - once roused, their temper is a sight to behold.

People born under the sign of the Ox or Buffalo usually have strong codes and work ethics. This can lead to a tendency to be a workaholic, and they should make an effort to relax more. Ox people are usually strong and robust, and according to ancient wisdom, they should be blessed with long lives.

The Ox home is his castle where he finds relaxation and peace from the everyday hustle and bustle of his career or responsibilities. He also enjoys spending much time in planting gardens and trees. He generally prefers to decorate his home comfortably with nature colors.

Able, ethical and aware, co-workers of the Ox can depend on their eyes for details. Because they are so well-organized, they are better-suited for specialized positions and prefer to work in large companies. They work best when they work alone since they can be unhappy when participating in a large group.

For your fortune for the year of the OX, find your birth year animal Here. Click on it and it will take you to the prediction.

24 January 2009

The Interview

Mary the Teach over at Work of the Poet is interviewing some of her regular visitors who have volunteered to answer questions. Do take the opportunity to read the interviews as she knows some truly fascinating people. That makes it a true honor that she wanted to interview me when I said I was willing. The questions change for each person so here are mine.

1.If I were to ask your best friend to describe you, what would he/she say?
First is always, "When I need to know something, anything, you are the first person I call." This is something in the way of being the bane of my existence. I'm always flattered combined with being mildly peeved. Somewhere along the line, I got a reputation for being a walking encyclopedia and every body's "I'd like to phone a friend", and almost all phone calls start with, "Do you know .... ". Hey folks, call me every once in awhile just to say "Hi" .. then ask the question.
Second, that I will go anywhere at the drop of a phone call to help a friend if needed. This may explain why there are so few people that I truly think of as "friend", and finally that I am always, always early everywhere. If you don't want to get caught in your slip and prefer to have me arrive "fashionably late", give me a start time one hour after everyone else.

2. Do you get to spend a lot of time with family? Who in particular?
I have lived with my son and grandson for the past five years, so I see them every day. Other than that I speak to my daughter once a week and see her once a year and we have lived together in the past. That is about it for the relatives. My mother passed away when I was 17 and my dad in 1981. All of the aunts are now gone and the cousins are more Christmas Card companions than anything else.

3. What would you serve at a casual get-together of friends at you home?
If they were invited for dinner, then it would be lasagna, a nice green salad, good crusty bread, and a hearty red wine. I truly like to just cook in advance and then just sit down, pass around, and have fun.

4. What have you read lately? What are you reading now?
For years I have promised myself that I would FINALLY read Anthony Powell's, "A Dance To the Music of Time". I just finished Spring and now I'm on to Summer with Autumn and Winter yet to go. All of these will get interspersed with other books and right now I'm lusting after Peter Matthiessen's "Shadow Country", winner of the 2008 National Book Award for fiction.

5. Have you ever had, or do you have now, a role model?
This is going to sound a little strange, but yes and Louisa May Alcott created her or was her. I'll expand a little on this at a later date for a planned blog article, but due to circumstances I was raised in almost total silence. Except for music and my books, I could go for days without speaking a word to another human being. As a result the characters in books became family and Jo from "Little Women", "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys" and a blend of Rose and Phoebe from "Eight Cousins" and "Rose In Bloom" were where I went for guidance and companionship. If I some time's come across as a blend of Victorian sensibilities and rather wild adventurousness willing to try anything, blame it on them.

Champagne For Breakfast

You may notice that the blog has taken on a rather sunny appearance for today only. This is because Mary The Teach at Work of the Poet is passing out Mimosa awards based on Panton's signature color for the year described as follows:
“The color yellow exemplifies the warmth and nurturing quality of the sun, properties we as humans are naturally drawn to for reassurance,” explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®. “Mimosa also speaks to enlightenment, as it is a hue that sparks imagination and innovation.”

Mary created a MIMOSA AWARD for bloggers who epitomize hope and reassurance every day in their blogs and gave it to some of her sun shiney blogger frieds. I got one. Little did she know that I consider the height of luxury an expansive Sunday brunch where the Mimosas flow followed by a safe ride home and a day in which to sleep off the effects of all that over indulgence.

Now to pass it along in the spirit in which it was given. First to my favorite storyteller who created "Only The Good Fridays" and who always faces the future with humor and wisdom: Shelly at This Eclectic Life, Linda at Are We There Yet for facing all the challenges of a single parent with humor, bravery, and the willingness to tackle something new from a traumatic move to photography, and Carol at A Letter To Me for her years of friendship, support, and her ability to care for her family with grace and serenity.

23 January 2009

Severe Nostalgia Attack

The Original Angel's Flight

The whole idea of a former mouseketeer passing away at only 64 was terribly sad. The fact that I am now 64 and will be 65 on March 2 didn't help the mood any. This was followed by one of those rather aggravating chain emails, "Do You Remember The Fifties?" and I was off on an extended trip down memory lane. Fortunately if you have to make the sentimental journey to your childhood, this one has a fabulous soundtrack. Based on the old Cashbox Charts from the period, The Tropical Glen Jukebox site is where you go to pick a year from 1940 to 1970 and you don't have to put a nickle in the nickelodeon to hear Theresa Brewer sing.

Many years ago I did an exhibit for a banker's convention in San Diego. It consisted of blow ups of photographs of old time California and a buffet of tidbits based on all the cuisines that had migrated there so that trays of tiny tacos were nestled next those containing won tons and spanakopita. The California Historical Society had helped me with the canvas mounted blowups and I thought I might like to see some of the pictures again. In hunting around I found an absolutely incredible creation A Visit to Old Los Angeles. It covers the period from 1900 to 1920 and could take you hours to get through if you read all the descriptions, commentary and postcards, so you might want to just bookmark it for "in the mood" visits.

Of course the modern city looks quite a bit different. At the top of the page is the original Angels' Flight. It was taken down for "temporary" repairs under Mayor Bradley and didn't return for thirty years, but you can now ride one of the few or possibly only funicular railways in the United States.

21 January 2009

Commercial Purpose

Most of the time I totally ignore commercials. I am the world's worst person for advertisers as I simply forget their names (which cruise line just like all the others that just went by?). If I actually want something I go on the web or look in the phone book for the product or service, but you can't SELL me anything except total resistence to anyone trying to SELL me something. Remind me to tell you about my fight with the guy pushing whichever computer came in the cow box.

Even more than commercials, I really really hate advertisers who tie their commercials to national holidays such as mattress sales on Washington's Birthday (he had to sleep somewhere) or the most offensive of all, Christmas displays in October.

So surprise, surprise. I have actually seen two commercials recently that I not only remember the commercial, but I remember th brand name, and I look forward to seeing them again. This hasn't happened since EDS herded cats.

First up Starbucks - Love the commercial. Love the idea. It won't do them anygood, my order is still a grande latte and a butter croisant, but thanks for having a really good idea.

The second is Pepsi with "My Generation", first because I've been thinking about age recently and the images cover the last century, and who could resist bouncing to The Who. This won't do Pepsi any good either since I don't drink sodas, but hey! Great commercial guys.

What makes both of these commercials stand out is that they are directed at US not at YOU. There is an inclusion of all people of all ages making things happen, something that seems to have been missing for a few decades now. It's a nice feeling and I'm glad to have it back. Now if the feeling will only spread.

20 January 2009

The Day The Music Died

I'll do more about this later, but for those who remember that this is the 50th anniversary in February of the death of Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Richie Valens died in an airplane crash, there is an absolute MUST SEE Sunday series being done by the Des Moines Register. It is a combination video and written presentation and just plain remarkable.

Bless This House

"I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings on this house and on all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof."

John Adams quote above the mantle of the fireplace in the White House State Dining Room.

Welcome Home Mr. President

"I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. . . . At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the
forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life. That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. ... This is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. ... People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again."

Full Text of Inaugural Address
Inaugural Luncheon Menu & Recipes
White House

18 January 2009

Blogger Album Project

The Bloggers Album Project was started by Robert Rouse. This is what Robert has to say about the project:

"I started the Blogger Album Project to discover how diverse - or collective - the Blogosphere is when it comes to taste in music. So far, the choices are interesting - to say the least! Many great albums - most I have owned - some I have never heard of, but will check out because of this list. Send a list of your seven favorite albums (those are like large black compact discs to those of you who do not remember turntables before scratching), along with a link to your blog. I am hoping we can eventually have more than 1000 selections - the current total stands at 378 Album choices."

This is a virtually impossible chore for me. My tastes are so eclectic that the collection is broken up among Classical, Soundtrack, Standards, not to mention the genres from bluegrass to rock. About the only thing that isn't there is rap and the grandkids have me listening to that. The only solution was to pick the seven I'm playing most often at the moment, all of which are subject to change on a whim at any second. What can you expect from a woman who just looked to her left and saw Rod Stewart, B B King, and Bonnie Raitt and looked to the right to find Placido Domingo on top of Ella Fitzgerald and Linda Ronstadt.

So here's my seven albums:

  1. U2 - Rattle and Hum
  2. Les Miserables - Soundtrack
  3. Eagles - Desperado
  4. Sondheim - Follies In Concert Soundtrack
  5. Barbara Cook - Live From London
  6. The Chieftains - Long Black Veil
  7. Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline
If you click on the link to the project above, you can get to the site to view the list so far. There is also a link to Robert's email on the site so you can send your own selections. After my visit there, I wanted to come back here and change everything because so many of the albums listed are on my shelves.... oh well, Sorry about that Beatles, Mamas and Papas, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John .... Argh!!!

Manic Monday - Office

Most of us think of "office" as one of those places you go to work from nine to five or longer. Perhaps either the British comedy (or it's American version) "The Office" comes to mind for laugh filled episodes. Still the word "office" has a much more exalted meaning such as: Barack Obama was just elected to the OFFICE of the Presidency.

An office is an appointment or election to a titled position of honor that is often represented in family names from the time of the original appointment. One such is my middle name: Durward. You've never heard of a job called "Durward"? Maybe if I say, Door Ward or Gate Keeper it will make more sense. So what is a Door Ward (in family and first names now spelled Dorward or Durward)? While it could be a post as simple as an honorary Guard for an important person either with the church or the nobility, in medieval Scotland the office of king’s doorward was one of considerable honor.

In the case of my family, the name dates from Thomas de Lundin guardian of a Scottish king during his minority, attainment of an earldom and life in a rather pleasant castle. Uquhart is a bit of a ruin now, but if you go there, you will have a good lookout point to see the Loch Ness Monster.

To join in the fun of Manic Monday go HERE

16 January 2009

The Time-y Wimey ... Stuff

Doctor Who just finished up the fourth season of the latest version of this British export that first hit the TV screens in 1963. In 2009 there will be five "specials" with David Tenant the most recent doctor, who will then regenerate into the next Doctor Who and a new actor for Season Five in 2010.

Is that geeky enough for you? I am a hopeless Doctor Who addict and absolutely love the David Tenant characterization. There is no way to really explain the Doctor, but in a recent episode where the latest alien menace has taken over a library and has him cornered. What does the Doctor do? He flips his "screwdriver" and says, "You have the knowledge of the universe at your disposal. I'm The Doctor. Look me up!". The shadow that had been creeping towards him, does a high speed reverse in direction. Every Who addict laughed out loud.

It is the combination of humor, wisdom, emotion all packed into one of the best written shows you will ever see. So far my favorite line this year is, "People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint - it's more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly... time-y wimey... stuff. " Somehow the idea that time is wibbly wobbly is very, very comforting.

This is a small clip from the Doctor Who episode "Blink"

Another clip of Doctor Who, "Silence In The Library"

12 January 2009

The Boy From Oz

The media reel for the musical "The Boy From Oz" has hit you tube. These are the stars doing all of the musical numbers with good film values. Two songs are below, but there are more than 20 songs that you might want to view. If you don't have the soundtrack, you can start HERE and work your way through all of the performances. It isn't as good as having the whole show as a movie, but unfortunately about as close as we are likely to get unless someone gets smart in Hollywood and figures out that not everyone wants to see blood and explosions. A couple of samples are shown below.

09 January 2009

Why? Because We Like You

Taking a short break from all the goings on at my home front to write a short tribute to a truly nice lady who lost her battle with cancer today. I never met her, but she was a major part of my childhood, and as history would have it, we are the same age.

The boys love Annette and we all knew why, but I identified with Cheryl. There was something about her warm smile that said she would have been a best friend if she had only lived next door. In a way, she did live next door as I watched her every single afternoon.

Disneyland opened in 1955 and being a native, I got there in the first month and at least once a year every year since. The Mickey Mouse Club debuted the same year and I was an 11 year old fan. To this day, I know the "Alma Mater" song above. All beautiful things come to an end, but it is with a speacial sadness that I say goodbye to the girl I never met, but loved.

06 January 2009


If it has seemed matter of fact up to now, it is because all of these old ghosts were laid to rest years ago with a story. So this time out begins with the beginning of that story and ends with the song that was written by Amanda McBroom about her father, the actor, and sung many years after my father died that finally made me cry for my daddy, the accountant.


"The Juggler".

The pretty balls whirled above the child’s head. Daddy had bought a small circus for the day and it was only right to name the spinning circles after those she loved. Blue – Aunt Ruth, green – Uncle Don, red and yellow for mommy and daddy; the pink one was Aunt Helen, orange for Wanda, white for Duane and you run out of colors and balls for Butch and Sandy, Claudia Jo and Donna Ruth, Grandmother and Pampa. The girl cried because there weren’t enough colors to go around and she just knew one of the ever faster moving globes would drop and ruin the show.

Front row seats at the Ice Capades. Chubby fingers reach out to touch the back of a skater resting in the dark waiting for her cue to skate out into the lights. She’s warm daddy. The skaters flashed among the rainbow lights of a fairytale world. They’re warm; they’re real. But the show was over. The lights went out. The fairytale ended in a bar with daddy. Just one honey and we will go home. There are no real happy endings.

The princess wore gold satin and white majorette boots with tassels. The winning number is -------. Blinded by the flashing cameras she was lifted down by one of her many cheering adult attendants. The gold typewriter was gone and they all went to watch the stripper. How could you? The fight went on into the early hours as she buried her head in the pillow to muffle the sounds from the next room.

You have to put her in school. Mother argued with the man above the child’s head. She’s too young, barely five, she will never keep up. Test her, please. She can do it. The first in a series of tests started. They would continue for years at each new school. She has the mind of a ten year old. We will put her in the third grade to start. No, keep her as close to the right age group as possible. The child sat politely still among the rest of the furniture and listened. Give her the books. She will learn on her own. She was different – the teacher’s pet – the outsider – the smart one – alone.

She had become a juggler with colorless balls: Mother, father, aunts and uncles, teachers, schoolmates, a happy face for each role. There was no one like her. Hold them in the air. If allowed to fall, the world will end. California, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and California again: It was her own great circle tour. The dream started. She faced the long winding road, running always faster as the shadowy figures pursued. There was now a stepfather, a stepmother, two stepsisters, another stepfather and how many of mother’s friends; she forgot. Home was where she happened to be that night. "Here is your ticket honey. Get off the bus in Fresno; call a cab and give this note to Casey. She will keep you until I have a place again." Planes, trains, buses, all the dusty terminals of the Western U.S. became more than familiar. They were places without anyone she knew, which made them friends.

"You lousy, mother-fuckin’, son-of-a-bitchin’ bastard --- " The litany went on into the night. Dad made phone calls when he drank. Get up again. It’s only 4 a.m., and self-appointed guardians keep dawn watches. Daddy, I love you. Talk to me. Please talk to me. That’s the closet, not the bathroom. I’ll take care of you. Please! Talk to me. "Stinky, bring your friends home". Oh, daddy, I’m twelve, don’t call me that. "Here’s $20.00 buy yourself a record". Thank you. Go to bed now, please.


So you daddies and daughters,
you sons and you mothers.
Remember life's over before it begins.
So love one another, and stand close together
As close as my dad did to old Errol Flynn

05 January 2009

A Peaceful Pause

Well here we are. Dad is married to Mary and keeping the drinking under control. Mom is married to another Bob and resisting her need for constant romance. Ruth and Don are getting along and her "best friend" hasn't yet gotten predatory. All three regular homes are in working order, and all the other aunts are maintaining their pairs. There is a lot to be said for peace and quiet. I call it the Webster Webfoot Interlude.

Mother was waitressing at an upscale steak house and Daddy Bob (I slipped into that easily, he really was a nice man) liked to go fishing. He had never had a daughter so he figured girls could hike through rough country to go fishing and learn to shoot at targets with his police special. We always kept some of the trout alive to put in the wishing well where mom worked.

Webster and his friend Jimmy Weldon were on local TV. When Webster was around, Jimmy never broke character even if he was just stopping in for dinner. Webster was three years old (born on February 31), and that was the way everyone talked to him even though they logically knew it was Jimmy being a ventriloquist. One night Jimmy came into the restaurant with Webster just as the fish were being dropped off, but Bob was in uniform ready to go to work.

"Yes, Webster"
"You see that man?"
"Yes, Webster"
"Is that a gun?"
"Yes, Webster. That is a gun"
"Yes, Webster"
"Does he shoot ducks?"

Needless to say, the whole place came unglued.

For two whole years I had an almost regular life with a best friend in Fresno and a best friend in Los Angeles and a best friend in El Monte (three families remember), and in 1957 at the age of 13 I fell in love for the first time with a handsome older man of 17 or it was probably just Fresno heat stroke. Even if it didn't work out like a hit song of that year, Jerry is remembered fondly more than a half century later, and he will always be 17.

All in all, it was a nice backwater to bob around in gently before tackling the rapids once more.

04 January 2009

Manic Monday - Sale

I was almost thrown by this week's word from Mo until I remembered the opening scene from The Music Man where all the salesmen on the train talk about the change in the way businesses is done (Ya Gotta Know The Territory). Then the charlatan traveling Salesman Harold Hill Proceeds to sell River City a Boy's Band (Ya Got Trouble).

It is amazing how much things have changed from when I was a child and there were still door to door salesment such as the "Fuller Brush Man". Later "The Avon Lady" really did make the rounds of the neighborhood rather than just passing the catalogue around at work.

It you wanted an expensive item you either saved up and paid cash or put it on "lay away" and made payments until you could pay it off and pick it up. Admitedly credit makes purchases much more convenient, but the access to easy credit has caused more heartache than I think it may be worth.

For links to more Manic Monday participants, join Mo and the gang HERE

When I'm 65 Part II - Decade

Aunt Helen with Janet (left) and Wanda (right)

To put everything in perspective. There was never a moment in my childhood when I felt unloved, mistreated, or abused in any way. At absolute worst until 1961 (more later), I was inconvenient. There were times when I resented events (doesn't every child?). There were times when I wished that I fitted in better. which is hard to do when you are always the new kid in town. Mine was a world of adults, first because of being an only child. Second because I had three major homes. Third because I was a "brain" and spoiled rotten by teachers and trusted by adults ... this didn't help with the fitting in part.

When last we left our story, it was 1949. Now a mere five years later it is the summer of 1954 and I am living with my Aunt Helen and cousin Wanda. There have been some new stops added to the map: Phoenix, Albuquerque, and now Chowchilla with the usual side trips of Los Angeles and Fresno. By the decade point, I have already attended six schools in six cities and number seven would be after the summer ended when I moved to El Monte (another city).

Somewhere in there around about 1951 Albuquerque, the parents managed to get unhitched (check the earlier story about San Marino Hall School for Girls). None of this came about before there was almost an international incident when I almost got shipped off to Saudi Arabia (Kamel deserves his own blog post) or made the rounds of every officer's club in eight states or the night they left me asleep in a car and when I woke up, I naturally went to find them. When a child in bunny feet pajamas shows up in a Phoenix nightclub, she just might end up on Billy Eckstein's lap. For the life of me I have no idea why he was there and why in Arizona in that era a white child was on a black man's lap. For the rest of the world in that period, it would have been a scandal. For me it was just life with mom and dad and all the performers they knew. It was just more music. I picked this clip so that you could see him moving as well as hearing his magnificent voice, but do take the time to listen to some of the other you tube cuts.

Having got unhitched Dad immediately got rehitched and thus I acquired a stepmother, two stepsisters, and a step grandmother. This was an excellent move on dad's part and she was a good enough woman that it took ten years for him to screw it up, even though he really worked at it.

Mom waited until the summer of 1953. She managed to find a truly good, responsible, stable man. Unfortunately, stability wasn't on her list of desirable qualities so he only lasted six years. While he was around, the music was great. He not only looked like Frank Sinatra, he sounded like him. At one point he had had a recording contract, but at the time the world didn't want one Sinatra much less two of them, so he became a Fresno Deputy Sheriff instead. This pair are the source of my inferiority complex about singing. Imagine being in the back seat of a car with Frank driving and singing and Judy singing along. His big number:

But they sang everything. They also didn't think it was unusual when a ten year old child looked at a television and became an absolute, total undying fan of Sammy Davis, Jr. Over the years, because of all the musical and motion picture contacts, stars were just people who earned their living working that way with one exception. I adored Sammy as mentioned in this previous article. This one sided love affair continued until his death and he still remains the only performer whose death brought me to tears, but it all started with this performance on black and white TV.

Will Mastin Trio starring Sammy Davis, Jr. May, 1954

Hang on to your hats folks. Up till now thanks to the love, the music, the admiration etc., I knew my life was different, but it wasn't awful. I'm a brainy, responsible little bookworm treated as an adult by all the other adults around me. It is all about to go to hell in a handbasket.

03 January 2009

Bringing You Up To Speed

White great grandmother with children
(grandfather, William White, center back row)

Pifer Great Grandparents with children
(Grandfather, James Pifer, center back row)

For more than two years now I've been writing about anything and everything. During that time, I've touched on family members and history. For those of you fairly new to these pages, you can take a look at some previous articles to get acquainted with the cast of characters before I take you to 1954.

Finding Jessie was about my grandmother.

Aunt Ruth - My mother's oldest sister and provider of my most regular home.

Donald Dotson - Aunt Ruth's husband until I was 12 and second father figure.

Going Places - Genealogy article on various relatives

Mary Ellen Pifer - A Manic Monday on "Green" and a story of the Oklahoma dust bowl.

Squeezing Out A Memory - A sense of Central California in the 1950s

02 January 2009

Wiki Wacky

There is a lot of teasing that goes on about Wikipedia because it can be changed so easily and sometimes you do have to double check the information, but I'm crazy about Wiki because it is where I keep my brain. We all have "senior moments" even if we aren't seniors, but if you can get somewhere in the vicinity of a memory, Wiki can probably find it for you.

For instance, today I was trying to remember songs on my radio when I was five. Strangely enough, I could actually remember one, "Far Away Places", simply because I remember exactly where I was when I first heard it. I couldn't be absolutely sure if the memory was faulty and what's more all the other songs of the era were sort of mushed together in time. What I needed to do was put "Far Away Places" on the radio in 1949.

As you can see from the link above, there it is on the Billboard Hits on December 31, 1948 where it stayed for 18 weeks. Now how about the other songs? Type in a year, any year - In this case 1949 Songs - Look what pops up: 1949 In Music. Now I can click from year to year to put songs in the context of places, which will come in very, very handy. If you can just ask the right question, Wiki will at least get you started on the road to the answer.

So there I am, barefoot (I still hate shoes), sitting on the floor of my bedroom in Fresno (I still don't like chairs). My favorite Childcraft book - the one with the poetry - is open (I still love books). By now in the space of five years, I have been in Los Angeles, Oakland, Walla Walla, Boulder City, and now Fresno. It's been an interesting five years even if I only truly remember about three and a half of it, when a song comes on that just perfectly fits my ongoing love of being elsewhere any chance I get.

01 January 2009

When I'm 65 Part I

Today we will warm up the time machine because my children have been demanding an autobiography for years. Fortunately, there is one whale of a soundtrack. In all fairness I have to tell you about my ultimately self-destructive but wonderful parents and the unusual almost parents, keepers, and volunteers. I was actually, for the most part, kind of given a home by four people with additional add-ons as necessary. As a result, this is going to be a multiple day post.

Mama was born in 1918 in Oklahoma. She lived during the dust bowl as the middle of nine children and made the trek to California. Her father the light of her life died when she was 15. There was an older very strange brother that the family doesn't discuss, but she had younger sisters who adored her for defending them even though they knew she was a victim.
She had a brain that made her valedictorian of her 1936 graduation class. The love of her life in high school was Armenian. In Central California of the 1930s that would be the equivalent of black/white so she was forced into an "acceptable" marriage at 18 to a man who tried to kill her. Was she "wild" after this ... darn right she was. She sang better than Judy. She danced better than Ginger, there wasn't an event that wasn't made better by her telling the story with embroidered notes and gestures, and for a second husband when she was 24 (ignoring the lover in between the official alliances which wasn't done then) she married a man born in Scotland because she was a rebel who wanted different ... and that ended up being:

Daddy who was born in Scotland in 1918. His father saw the "Great Strike" of 1926 coming and he and his brothers and sisters crossed the pond in shifts to take up residence in California. As a result my dad, his brothers, and all of the Scottish cousins ended up in a Los Angeles enclave in the late 20s and early 30s just in time for the depression from which they would disperse throughout the state.
Daddy as the eldest and most responsible at age 8 and protector of his younger brothers, made that 6,000 mile trek with his adored mother and watched over the youngsters while his father worked 16 hour days at the rubber plant. His mother died only a few years later when he was 16 just six months before his HS graduation. It was a date he would mourn by being drunk for the next 40 years and which created a gulf between him and his father for decades.
Was he smart? ... he was doing Trigonometry when he was 13. He graduated HS at 16 in 1934, the year his mother died. He went to work at the railroad as a full charge accountant to escape home and with Pearl Harbor he joined the Army as a Warrant Officer. They fatefully sent him to Fresno, California. Could he dance? God daddy could dance. My earliest memory is standing on his feet to learn how the Fox Trot felt. Could he sing? Not a note. Bullfrogs sounded better, but as a storyteller he was unmatched except by mama.

Between them they told tales, invented escapades that may have been true, and tumbled head long into their future. Side note: They both smoked Pall Malls (Prophetic and pronounced pell mell elsewhere). Their Song was Whispering. It was recorded in 1920 by Paul Whiting and his orchestra and was the first song to ever sell one million copies. As such it has been played and sung by darn near everyone including Bing Crosby, Louis Armstrong, and Les Paul, making it the first song in the soundtrack that provides background to my life.

Whispering while you cuddle near me
Whispering so no one can hear me
Each little whisper seems to cheer me
I know its true dear....there's no one but you

Whispering why you'll never leave me
Whispering why you'll never grieve me
Whisper and say that you believe me
Whispering that I love you

Whispering while you cuddle near me
Whispering so no one can hear me
Each little whisper seems to cheer me
Just whispering that I love you

So these two beautiful, brilliant, talented, and damaged people heading towards their versions of ruin met in Fresno in the Spring of 1942 where they married on Independence day. Look up above. You see where his arm is resting over her belly in the autumn of 1943. That bulge is me. Between them either together or separately with step parents, I would actually live with them off and on for a total of maybe seven or eight (It's hard to add up months) of the next 17 years.

To be Continued with the almost parents, the results, and most of all the music ... The first 30 years are the hardest.

Happy New Year

Our little blue planet has a host of problems. Let's see if we can't kick off the new year on a note of hope for the future and may this time next year, find it in much better shape.