Muskrat Vengeance

Season 6, Episode 2 of Alone. This will be spoilers, probably, even if I am vague.

The title of the episode is “Tainted,” which sets it up that something associated with that will play a role. Clever editors that they are, they create the question of which thing it might be. We already wondered from last week about the mushrooms tainted with mouse turds. Clever, putting traps in that area, knowing it’s a popular rodent hangout.

One of them cuts her hand, pretty deeply. This might normally want a stitch or three, but in the end appeared to be coming along fine. It could yet be an issue.

In the first episode, it seemed like food wasn’t a big deal. But maybe it’s just that the gill net was a far better idea than it sounded. Now we see people already not eating because lack of fish in particular.

But wait! Here’s a trout, finally. Look at those parasites. Hey, I’ll cook it thoroughly. Will the fish cause a problem by being tainted? Or will the cut be tainted?

Now Donny gets a muskrat. Of all things! This bring back memories of my childhood, and a muskrat we played with by cranberry bogs in a neighboring town. It lived at the edge of the reservoir. I was pretty young and don’t remember much besides it was cute. We entertained ourselves while my mother worked.

Poor thing, through the head. So he butchers it and goes over the things to do and look for so it’s not tainted. Scent glands begone! Check the innards, no spots on the liver. To me it goes without saying to cook it well, and it looked like it was cooked just short of charred.

Two hours later… The pain! Man, it looked horrible. Well, poor guy never recovered and did the right thing. It did answer a question I’d always had: What if you’re on medication? He was too sick to take the meds he’s on as a result of his heart attack a year earlier. While some of that stuff may sometimes be questionable, and an overreaction if you haven’t had a heart attack and they just suspect you could, better to be safe, especially in that severe of a case. What makes me wonder about just what the “taint” was is he complained about all his joints hurting, after a while. I haven’t tried researching yet, and haven’t watched any YouTube folks who might have done so.

I thought the fishing raft with the found barrel was clever. Not so much when I interpreted “raft” as something she’d ride on and was saying “don’t fall in, not here.” But the idea of it holding lines and drifting out deep enough to maybe catch something, then be pulled in, that’s great.

And None On The Wife’s Side

If the eldest’s DNA results are any indication. We had no American come back on my mother’s, even though we “know” there’s Wampanoag. We had none come back on mine, seemingly ruling out that as an unknown but sometimes suspected element on my father’s side.

Now my daughter’s results are in, and fascinating within the realm of the expected. Despite even more muted suspicions on her side, if these results are indicative, no Indian on my wife’s side either.

45% England, Wales and Northwestern Europe
29% Ireland and Scotland
16% Germanic Europe
6% Norway
4% Sweden

While my mother showed a trace of Germanic, I showed none. My father-in-law is of Mennonite ancestry, mainly via Switzerland. If anything, Germanic could have been higher.

My wife had a Swedish great grandmother who lived on the Norway side of the border before coming to the US. This is about as expected for Scandinavian.

My wife has ancestry from Country Cork, specifically, so the kid has a great share of what amounts to Celtic DNA than I do, between mine that’s heavy on the Scottish and hers that’s heavy on the Irish. In fact, the breakdown actually suggests that Irish and Germanic may be my wife’s biggest components.

In the kid, English et al are diluted from my 74% down to 45%. At a crude computation, it implies that the wife might be 16% on that count.

It would be interesting to see what my wife actually registered on a test, and the same for my father.

 

Really… NO Little Indians

I got my Ancestry DNA results. My mother’s shows no American, seemingly eliminating the Wampanoag ancestor we know is there. Mine shows no American, seemingly eliminating the possibility of a not entirely surprising or unsuspected but by no means definite surprise on my father’s side.

Mine is even vaguer than hers, and I’m not even quite sure just what it suggests about my father’s side beyond that he is even more English than my mother and less Celtic than my mother. The traces of Germanic and Scandinavian hers showed disappeared in mine, which is margin of error stuff. Mine shows a few percent French, on the other hand, but the wider area covered by “French” includes most of Spain, the northern half of Italy, part of Portugal, Switzerland, and some other small countries. Frankly (ha!), I’d have expected that more on my mother’s side.

Anyway, I got 74% England, Wales and Northwestern Europe, 23% Ireland and Scotland, and 3% French. My mother, by comparison, was 55% and 36% on the first two where we overlap, plus 6% Germanic Europe and 3% Norway.

My uncle is in there and I found you can see what components your matches include, if not the percentages. His is the same elements as hers except no Norway. That’s the way these things end up varying. So it’s not as simple as to figure my father’s would show 5% French because I must have gotten that from him. If it were that simple, extrapolating from me on the main ones… My father would be 10% Ireland and Scotland, and… I can’t have figured that right, because the math doesn’t work. No, it does, if French isn’t a factor. He’s be 88% England, Wales and Western Europe. I know my mother’s side is far more Scottish than his, but I’d be surprised if his broke down tot hat little. Sadly, I can’t imagine getting him to do the test, even if I buy it for him.

I haven’t gotten the results for the offspring, mailed the same day, and that should also be interesting.

My conclusion is that the DNA tests are remarkably vague and are a marketing tool to get people to subscribe to extremely expensive other services. The prices I see there are completely haywire budget busters.

Remembering D-Day

Well, not remembering, since it was 17 years before history began for me personally. However, it is on my mind. It is astonishing, what a feat the whole thing was, and what was accomplished.

It’s an odd thing. It might have been possible to sit back and do nothing but defend the UK and other places that had either not been taken or been freed already, while the Soviet Union inexorably kicked Nazi butt. It’s arguable that we didn’t defeat Germany so much as they did, although the United States and Great Britain helped make it easier.

However, whatever they defeated, they weren’t giving up. That was the big imperative for getting on with it then and racing to Germany. It might have been better for millions of people had we started sooner on that phase. Then again, we might not have been ready, planning might not have been sufficient, it might have been a disaster. Stirling only knows how it might have turned out then.

The Russian people, and any Soviet subjects who fought with them, were big damn heroes in that they were instrumental in defeating the Nazis. They don’t get enough credit. At the same time, the evil empire they had no choice but to be fighting for was fire fighting fire. The Normandy invasion was in part, however little touted, about a firebreak.

But I digress. It’s a shame we are on the verge of losing the last people with direct memories of this particular history. To die is to forget. To forget is to risk repeating mistakes. The least we can do is to continue remembering second-hand, and to honor the memory of those who did what needed to be done in those increasingly long ago days.

No Little Indians

My mother got an Ancestry DNA test for Christmas and never activated it and sent it in. A few weeks ago, I activated it for her and helped her with getting the sample sent in. Overnight the results came in. I’d used one of my e-mails, so I saw it right away.

Subsequent to getting hers done, my phone heard me talking about it and caused Facebook on my computer to advertise a Mother’s Day special to me for an unprecedented low price for the tests. We’re talking just over half the norm.

My oldest had wanted to do one and suggested I do one, which was funny because I had been thinking of it. I’d been leaning toward using a different service that might have better results, but Ancestry does strike me as good in terms of numbers of people who’ve used it, if you want to pursue genetic matches.

I ordered two, since it was so cheap, and ours went in not two weeks after my mother’s went in. I figured it’d be fascinating in that I could extrapolate my father from my results versus my mother’s, and could extrapolate my wife’s from my results versus my daughter’s. Now, these aren’t in yet. That’s be super exciting.

My mother’s results are basically what I would expect, with one exception. All my life, we have “known” that one of the multiple Seth Howlands in her lineage, circa 3-5 generations back from her, pissed off his family by marrying a Wampanoag.

The results? 55% England, Wales and Northwestern Europe, 36% Ireland and Scotland, 6% Germanic Europe, and – a mild surprise but easy to account for via British Isles if nothing else – 3% Norway.

Wait, what? No North American? No. And while it’s possible through the foibles of DNA inheritance, it can be there in a small amount in the family tree but not show up, it tends to indicate that the Wampanoag story is just that: a story.

If mine has North American in it, on the other hand, it would give credence to the rumored and speculated by not “known” presence of Native North American in my father’s father’s side, whether through his mother or his father. There have been even more dubious suggestions of African in the mix, explaining my grandfather’s nose and hair. Doubtful, but that would be a cool thing to show up.

I was a little disappointed with the vagueness of the areas represented by the ethnicity regions. Each of those regions has smaller areas, but there is nothing distinct enough to tie her to any of them. They are flagged as going back at least 500-1000 years, I believe was how it described the solid rather than open circles that appeared for each.

I was not surprised, and as such less disappointed than I might have been, about the Indian thing. It’s hardly a surprise.

To Love Somebody Poster

This is an interesting find. It’s a poster for Melody where it was marketed under its alternate alternate name of To Love Somebody, as opposed to the alternate name of SWALK (Sealed With a Loving Kiss), and the primary, intended name of Melody. The pictures are a little glossy looking, if that’s the right word. They look like they’re allw wearing super shiny lipstick. Tracy and Jack look older and perhaps as if they are the couple, while Mark looks much younger and oddly feminine.

What is has going for it is the question it poses. This sums up the movie in the shortest possible way, and works with that version of the title. How old is old enough? For what? To love somebody. Can you fall in love at 11 or 12 and have it be “real”? Not that they look 11 or 12 in the poster. Jack looks his age. Tracy looks Jack’s age, which is quite a trick, adding six years. Mark looks about 8. Quibbles aside, let’s see it…

 
Melody poster showing Mark Lester, Tracy Hyde and Jack Wild, presenting the film as the alternative title To Love Somebody for some markets, asking how old is old enough.

 

 

Bushcraft

I added bushcraft as a category because it’s one of my interests, but I haven’t posted about it any more than I’ve practiced it. I end up being more armchair and wishful thinking than practitioner. I watch videos of others. I wish I’d known to take advantage of the opportunity I had when I lived in the middle of the woods when I was a kid. It was some of my early YouTube viewing that led me to Alone when the show was new. I found Mitch Mitchell’s videos and was intrigued because he was obviously local. I could tell by the appearance of the woods where he shot videos, and then one day he had Market Basket matches.

This goes hand in hand with a prepper mindset. That’s something I grew up with. There were the grandparents who’d survived extreme poverty and acted accordingly the rest of their lives. Cue the importance of rotating your canned food and such. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been through extreme poverty and, by some standards, still am. Then there’s the Cold War mentality that never went away and had terrorism thrown on top of it. It really marks your psyche to grow up with the threat and even the assumption of the nukes raining down any time. As far as we knew there were no prime targets right around us. My grandfather’s employer’s munitions business was a thing of the past. The local testing grounds, secret at the time, were WW2 vintage. Boston and the route 128 region would have been a big target, though, so close enough.

I’m decidedly haphazard about these things. At any given time, as long as water and natural gas or other means of cooking were not an issue, depending on how we rationed it, five of us could go weeks on the food in the house. Take away electricity and we’d end up gorging on what’s in the freezer before rationing through the cabinets, but hey. There are useful things in the vehicles, but perhaps not complete or ideal sets of useful things. I could set up a pretty good camp out of the trunk of the car, for as many people as the car holds, but we’d pretty much be in the clothes on our backs and lacking things like blankets. The truck has less room and I’m less free to stuff things in behind the seats. It’s her baby. Otherwise it might have been replaced by something more practical years ago. Still. I had a scheme to equip it with a survival pack of sorts and just haven’t completed the task yet. A lot of the stuff I have that should be available to do that, or to grab and go from the house, is in “where did I put that” limbo.

That overlaps the set of things I take camping because they’ll be needed or just in case. Some of it’s sitting here in an undersized backpack that’s perfectly nice, but is a lesson in looking at specs when contemplating an Amazon purchase, and figuring out just what those dimensions it list will mean in person. I took it last summer to a friend’s cabin in Maine. I camped in the yard. It’s back up in the woods and on enough land to have been perfect for messing around. Build this or that type of natural shelter. That sort of thing. It was like 100 degrees The Whole Week and nobody wanted to do anything. Except go out to eat and go in the local pond repeatedly, giving myself a great opportunity to get severe swimmer’s ear. The same pond was the location of the July 4 fireworks and a little carnival, which was cool. Kids went on a few rides. Ironic, since we never go to the little carnival that finances the fireworks in our own town. Too expensive. Probably not far removed in cost from the one in Maine. But vacation! In Maine! So that’s different?

I don’t intend to go to the cabin again, even in the unlikely event the chance arises.. I haven’t put in for the vacation time I often take the week of the 4th, and have made no specific plans. It’s been a few years since I took the kids camping at the state forest. Last time it was pretty awful due to an invasion of what you might call city folk. For the kids camping = swimming. I might try going myself for 1-2 night outings just for away time. I may have talked about this when I grumbled about my difficulty focusing. Try doing some writing. Use paper. Otherwise I’d say do a bunch of reading, but reading isn’t as much of a problem. Anyway, the kids are getting old enough to have stronger opinions about going or not, and to be able to stay home if they choose. The youngest doesn’t like camping the way the other two do, and of course the wife simply doesn’t camp. The kids wouldn’t eat the campfire food I made that one time. We end up eating a lot of junk/convenience food or going to the local fast food. Sad.

Rambling aside, I’ve had ideas for a while now about incorporating bushcraft, or simply camping, into fiction. For that matter, the beta of the portion of a book that I started did just that. Kids are about to go camping with their dad when they find themselves in an alternate past, so they have backpacks and a couple things they’re carrying. They find themselves in a swampy woods and make themselves a shelter to sleep in the first night, after some initial exploration and finding a good spot. Complete with a nearby outhouse that existed in real life in that time and place. In our timeline, anyway.

One of the things I think about sometimes is incorporating a “survival” scenario, inspired by my own half-assed prepping and randomness, where you’re stuck getting by with what’s on you, or what’s in your vehicle, rather than with the ideal supplies. Shades of one of the periodic YouTuber scenarios. Lost hunter, all you have is a pocket knife (if that), for instance. Overnight with $10 in supplies picked from a dollar store or Walmart is always fun, but contrived. If I found myself off the road in my car and through hand waving a scenario wasn’t disabled but also couldn’t leave the area by much or get help, I wouldn’t have food and water. I wouldn’t have a pot for boiling water. I’d have more than one tarp and, last I knew, a tent. I’d have a tiny first aid kit and there might be a lighter or matches somewhere. I’d have no spare clothing, blanket or sleeping bag. I’d have a bunch of tools and odd junk. I’d have a folding saw, the key knife in my pocket, a self-lighting Coleman 2 burner propane stove and probably a small thing of propane, and an old propane lantern. There’d be at least two flashlights, some rope and twine, some duct tape, and a bunch of empty soda bottles and cans.  There’d be a dull hatchet. Empty, never used 2.5 gallon gas jug. It’d be downright cushy, entirely aside from any scenario in which you have an intact vehicle meaning you have instant shelter, and an anchor for extending shelter around it given things like tarps.

Then there’s the scenario where I am on foot. I have my keys and the tiny but sharp key knife. I have a pen or two, some pieces of paper towel, the contents of my wallet, and whatever I am wearing. That gets much more rustic.

In the truck there’s a small bag packed with tools, a tiny first aid kit that has a crappy folding knife and some matches tucked in it, maybe a tarp, maybe a trash bag, some rope, some empty bottles and cans, a flashlight or two, and not much else. It’s less roomy to shelter in. Given enough of a tarp, the bed could be covered for an off the ground sleeping shelter. Stuff in some dead leaves?

I’m rambling. It’ll be interesting to see what Alone does with a more northerly location this year. Some of it depends just how late in the year they started filming. I amuse myself sometimes by chastising the contestants, who know and have practiced a lot more than me, for doing silly things, or failing to do things, when I probably wouldn’t make it as far as them. There’s another element of the not fully prepared scenario: Writing it as someone who only has academic knowledge of survival skills.

Happy Birthday Tracy Hyde

Tracy Constance Margaret Hyde is sixty years old today. That means it was 49 years ago that she turned 11 and celebrated on the set of the movie that made her famous, early in the shooting. Obviously I am talking about Melody, filmed in 1970 and released in 1971.

She took her second husband’s name, so these days it’s actually Tracy Ayoul.

No matter how old she gets, and how old we get, for better or worse, Tracy will always be best remembered like she appeared here with Mark Lester:

 
Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde as Daniel Latimer and Melody Perkins in the cemetery scene in 1971 film Melody, originally released in some markets as SWALK.

Timeline Elasticity

If any of you follow all my babbling here, you know I think about alternate history scenarios, and alternate timelines to ours based on points where events large or small departed. One of my fiction ideas, started but never remotely completed, was one such based where I grew up. In it, I had certain changes I knew I wanted, then started thinking about what would have had to happen in the wider world to make it so. I could stick to lesser changes, and certainly I could keep it ambiguous. However, I arrived at the change possibly deriving from there having been no Teddy Roosevelt. I knew that was a huge change, but in fact it’s more so than I had realized, based on subsequent reading of history.

Digression from the main topic: TR gave us the Spanish-American War and the advent of the United States as an empire. He really kicked off the progressive movement, a creature of both right and left, and inaugurated massive changes to the size and role of government and collusion with big business interests. Things may have been ripe to lean this way in any event. That’s where the title of the post comes in. Who knows. We might have had no Great War, or no US participation in it. Take that away and you change the economy. It’s more certain there’s no Second War.  I’d originally thought about Wilson being eliminated, but it was TR who put us on a collision course.

The first big thing that impacts is a company that makes fireworks never becomes a munitions company, never becomes as big, never makes the owner as rich, never has residual effects on my family history.

When thinking about timeline changes, you can butterfly up a storm and treat it that all bets are off. You can also treat events as being somewhat elastic relative to what we knew in our timeline. I suppose that’s kind of a temporal-centric outlook, as if we are the One True Timeline. But if it’s elastic enough, then it’s not going to diverge as much as it would otherwise across a wide range of moderate changes.

What I mean by timeline elasticity is that things happen like JFK still becomes president around the same point in time, even with a good bit of change prior to that, even with one or more other presidents having been different. It snaps back, as best it can.

I would think that if you want to use that as an approach when planning out an alternate timeline, then you would have to be consistent. You can’t plead timeline elasticity when people question Nixon being president despite there never having been a Teddy Roosevelt, but wildly diverge on something that would be just as elastic. To put it another way, you’d treat the initial departure as your science fiction gimme and be “realistic” with other details. The “gimme” thing is a concept I got from Allen Steele. He said “you get one gimme” for your story. For instance, faster than light travel that simply exists and you don’t need to explain or justify at length. It’s the impossibility you’ve allowed yourself. But that’s what you get, and the rest follows or is logical.

This whole thing came to mind again in relation to Melody, of all things. I had been thinking it would be entertaining to reference Melody in the alternate timeline, which would be visited in the past, just a few years after Melody’s release in our timeline. I pictured having it be more successful. The thing is, change things enough and does it ever happen? If it does, would we recognize it? Just one thing is the minimum change: Mr. Perkins has an uncle who lost his hearing when a bomb fell on Berwell Street in the war. No war. No bomb. No story. Unless the uncle was destined to lose his hearing and the cause changed.

Now, it’s possible I could invoke some of the changes I want without such a huge point of departure. It’s possible strategic local events could do what I want, and nobody would notice much difference otherwise. On the other hand, the deeper story, including why and how people ended up crossing between timelines, seems to factor in the bigger source of change.

Besides, I still have a chance to use Melody in a story if I want. All I have to do is write a puppy love story based on myself, but in which I’ve seen the movie.

I suppose you could say that A Sound of Thunder was elastic. When the scared time traveling dinosaur hunter steps on a butterfly and changes everything, people are still people and things seems quite familiar. It’s just that the wrong guy got elected and English has changed slightly. Over millions of years of evolution that’s not much.

At least you don’t have to worry about these things if you change something now that matters going forward. For instance, changing physics to eliminate explosives, electricity, and some other details, while also adding subtle degrees of more mystic elements working. I had a similar but more radical idea years ago. If I wrote it now, people would think I was inspired by Dies The Fire. Or possibly Coldfire Trilogy. When I read the latter, I tried to figure out whether the author had been one of my pen pals. I briefly corresponded with a bunch of other aspiring SF&F writers found via the Writer’s Digest Book Club, and told some of them more about my ideas than I probably should have. In some ways, Coldfire was completely different from my biggest idea at the time. In others it was disturbingly familiar. Alas, there’s not really anything new under the sun, in some permutation or another.

Happy First of May

May first is celebrated by fans of Melody due to the degree to which the Bee Gees song First of May inspired the story told in the film, and due to its inclusion in the film as the theme of Daniel and Melody. It is played starting when they officially “get together” when she makes unambiguously clear she returns his interest. In the movie, it plays as they go from the school to the overgrown cemetery, then is reprised after the famous cemetery scene and as they walk to her apartment to have tea with her family. That’s on YouTube as First of May, Cemetery Scene, Melody (1971).

This embed is my favorite version that creates a music video for First of May from scenes clipped from the movie, covering a lot of that part of the story, without sticking exclusively to the part around the cemetery scene.

This is a much happier observation of May first than the increasingly widely observed Victims of Communism Day. But we should certainly remember them as well.

Something About You

So I’m back with the series of “favorite song by an artist” posts, prompted by a Boston song having played on my playlist and reminding me that they were one of the groups I’d thought of initially. In theory, this should be a terribly hard decision. There’s only one song on their entire debut album that I don’t like. At that, it’s more a matter of being lukewarm to it than disliking it. I can easily listen to that album start to finish and skip nothing. I never warmed to the other albums, or even heard anything off of anything past their third one. I love the one big hit off each of those two albums, but the real magic was the first. They were yet another one of those now classic rock bands that debuted when I was in high school, or within the few years just before and after. 1976, in their case, just before the start of tenth grade.

Despite how amazing they were, one song is a “my song” kind of song and thus makes this cut: Something About You. It’s me, except the guy found a girl eventually, but his combination of feeling too much and not wanting it to show, and his temper, sometimes mess things up. I’m shockingly mellow these days, but I always had the temper that ran through some of the men in my family. I didn’t tend to take it out on people, even if it was a result of people, but I had to learn not to break things I didn’t want to have to or couldn’t afford to replace, or come off looking foolish. I learned to keep that inside, along with other feelings.

In an unexpectedly astute moment many years ago, my stepmother noted that I hold things inside and, I forget how she put it, but essentially it did things like drive up my blood pressure. It always drove the wife crazy that I won’t fight. She’ll do that almost for sport or fun. The last time my temper peaked was probably around eight to ten years ago, give or take a bit. That was the point at which it became a three way thing with her seeing another guy while we stayed together for the kids and stability. The other guy waxed and mostly waned subsequently, but she tenaciously waxed it recently. Even though it’s water under the bridge and it’s weird to imagine there ever being an actual relationship between us again, it has reminded me how my temper can be. But I digress into something way longer and more personal than intended as the intro for the song. And yes, that all related to why and how she came to tell me, more than once, how easy it would be for me to find people to get laid with. I find that laughable, of course, given how long and convoluted it was to get her, finally, at the age of 42.

When I was younger I thought I could stand on my own
It wasn’t easy, I stood like a man made of stone

Relatable. I might have been better off if I’d actually been more like that and not wanted it, wanted The One, whoever that might be, so much when I was young. But still, I couldn’t express an interest when I had one. Couldn’t act on it. Had learned to expect that even if I did the best outcome would be simple rejection.

I could easily have picked More than a Feeling. I could have picked Rock & Roll Band, a great entrant into the genre of “we’re a band, here’s how we started or the experiences we’ve had” songs. We’re an American Band. What’s Your Name. Turn the Page. Creque Alley. Jukebox Hero. Life’s Been Good.

But not those or the other great songs. There’s just Something About You:

 

 

Watch The Orville?

Every Friday after a new episode airs Thursday night while I’m sleeping, I watch The Orville on the web.

This is the first new episode to air since Disney took ownership.

Unless it’s some crazy oversight that happened when they changed the site unnecessarily because reasons, they have changed it so Comcast customers are not accepted. Comcast did vie with Disney for the purchase of Fox, after all. So let’s punish Comcast customers? Who may have little choice who to use for internet because of the history of localities thinking they had the right to grant monopolies for cable TV service, which was always nonsensical at best.

I didn’t really have time to watch it all before taking the kids to an appointment, but I figured I’d catch part of it. Alas, there will apparently be no commentary from me this episode, and no encouragement of everyone to watch it because it’s awesome. If I won’t be able to watch it, I won’t be able to care. If this is how Disney is going to be, I’m even less likely to want their streaming service than I wasn’t in the first place.

Update:
I looked at this again when I should really have been going to bed, and found they had modified things to acknowledge the “corporate transaction” and changes to Fox TV, and to offer the ability to create an account or log in with Facebook. I did the latter and was excited. Then I agreed to create a password in case I ever wanted to watch something where the FB login wouldn’t work.

Instead of playing the episode, it started a 2 minute and change preview timer for how much you could see before logging in with your cable provider. Comcast remains not an option. Bastards. I’m not going to move onto some paid service just to get the one show. If this isn’t resolved or it doesn’t become available through a service I’d use anyway, they’ll lose an avid viewer and as annoyed as I may sound, I won’t lose sleep over it.

Update April 25, 2019:

As noted here, I checked again and found they had fixed the problem.

Please Come To Boston

Nope, this isn’t about the song of the same name, pleasing as it may be. That just seemed like the thing to use as a catchy title for a city versus country post inspired by going to Boston. Tomorrow I have appointments there for two of the kids. It’s old hat by now, but when I was a kid, driving through or especially to Boston was exotic. Gross, too, before the pollution levels reduced. There was a time I was there almost weekly, but that was before I formed retrievable memories. When I was 17 days old and had meningitis, my parents drove me there and couldn’t figure out how to get to the hospital. They stopped and asked an anonymous cab driver. Instead of giving directions, he said “follow me” and led them there through a convoluted but speedy route. Maybe he didn’t save my life, but that random driver sure helped the cause.

I grew up essentially in the middle of the woods, in a small town that was rural inching toward suburban. Cities were polluted and criminal! They were crowded. With people! The very idea of going to one, let alone living in one, even something as urban as Brockton, was abhorrent. I still don’t like the idea, but I mind it less and can see the appeal to some. My oldest was briefly interested in the idea of living in the city when she was younger, maybe to go to college or work there when she was older. For her, even if that was a factor back then, being able to do without a car isn’t a factor. Unlike so many young people these days, she is ready to drive just as early as she can possibly manage it. And recent talk of MIT aside, she’s tentatively interested in going to college in the next town and commuting from here.

There’s a definite culture gap between city and country. My sister married an awesome guy from Dorchester and his family may as well have been from another planet. Absolutely nothing wrong with them. Just a completely different culture and outlook.

I see Melody, set in London, with the kids running around loose in the urban environment, and it’s as foreign to me as the fact that the location is in a different country and the date is almost fifty years ago. At least I lived through the same time and was close to the same age then, and England isn’t so different. Especially not then. Some might wonder if it has lost its way more recently. The kids made the most of it. There were benefits. Hop on a bus and be at Trafalgar Square. Hop on a train and be at the seaside and back before you can really panic anyone. It’s relatively new that we can walk under two miles, or drive and park, to get on a train to Boston or points in between, and from there take other transport to get around. Beats the traffic, depending, but it’s slower.

What I don’t look forward to is the drive home tomorrow. It’s likely to be late enough, especially on a Friday, that it’ll be full rush hour already. Then you’re in traffic headed toward Cape Cod, if not as bad as it’d be closer to the actual summer season.

Frankly, it still amazes me to live in a building with multiple units, on a postage stamp of land (if it’s a quarter acre I’d be surprised) with other buildings crowded around. The traffic is getting a little crazy, even though it’s still a relatively rural town. While being near stores and such is good, I wouldn’t mind moving somewhere much more rural. As long as I could afford it. Before I met my wife, I had developed the still nebulous goal of saving enough money to buy some cheap land somewhere, most likely wooded, where it could still be had cheap. I figured it’d be a camping get away, then maybe I could build a cabin, maybe someday live there, depending. Anyway, time to make the donuts. Supper, that is.

What to Say?

I’m at a loss for what to post without it being too much. Since I want to go to bed ASAP, earlier than normal so I’m not sleepy all day tomorrow, there’s not much time.

I’ve been meaning to write about, probably in a series of posts as notable examples come to mind, songs I can’t resist singing. I still have songs I associate with people I can post about. There’s always random songs that I happen to think of sharing.

I may actually have died down on things I have to say about Melody. Mark the calendar!  One of those conversations you have in your head, with one of the “girls group” actors (the one who identified the one I was curious about), had me thinking about posting about blog fame and how I met my wife, but I may already have covered that sufficiently.

Bushcraft topics are something I have not gotten into, and that’s likely to center around whenever the next season of Alone airs. However, it also touches on my childhood and growing up in the woods, and not being in the right place at the right time. It also touches on my potential fiction. Thinking about that recently made me think of the bed wetting problem I had when I was young. (Actually addressed, I noticed in one of the clips, in Moonrise Kingdom. Sam lets Suzy know he might wet the bed, when they are going to sleep in the tent together when they have run away. To “the seaside,” no less! She’s like “okay,” and it’s no big deal.)

I was thinking that even if I’d thought to grab the pup tent and some stuff and camp out in our woods, or go camp out in a shelter of natural materials, I would have to have worried about that possibility. The funny thing is, it was probably not nearly as frequent as the shadow it cast over my life makes me think of it as being. It stopped absolutely as soon as I hit puberty sufficiently at 11 years old. I was still paranoid enough that I wouldn’t go on the class campout in 6th grade, after I had turned 12. I always wondered if it was a similar story with the girl who was the only other one in my class who didn’t stay for the night.

There were no pullups then. One of my kids had a worse problem than I ever did. All I had to do was spend enough money on those and hope they didn’t leak very often. My father ranted and threatened me. My mother took me to the doctor when they had no clue what might cause it, but he used the idea of cutting the opening wider as a scare tactic (I promptly figured that out even then). With my kid, I learned it can be a problem caused by constipation. It was more a matter of worsened by, in that case, but it’s entirely possible that could have been a factor with me.

My mother boggled me by not having a particularly strong memory of bed wetting having been a thing. For me it dominated my childhood. My first friend in my childhood was born nine months after me and was the daughter of the best friends of my

[At this point I was interrupted and then went to bed after saving this as a draft. This is how it goes.]

As I was saying, first friend, daughter of best friends of my respective parents. Her mother and my mother met at nursing school, which my mother didn’t complete because it turned out she couldn’t bear the sight of blood. We could come home as wet and muddy as we wanted, but please no blood. Which means she must have really hated my tendency to have bloody noses. Shared by the same kid who shared my bed wetting problem. My mother’s reaction to my random, profuse bloody noses was that it meant I had high blood pressure and was going to die. While I did end up with hypertension later, that’s kind of an odd thing to say to your kid even if it had validity.

I had a nickname that was based entirely on the bed wetting thing. I absolutely loathed it and frankly would try to avoid anyone who knew or used the nickname. If I’d been a different sort, there might have been some violence inflicted. They always told me I didn’t know my own strength, after all. I actually learned to be gentle lest I hurt someone accidentally. It infuriated me when that friend, on Facebook decades after I’d last seen her, relayed that her mother said “hi nickname!” Where “nickname” is the one in question. It kept me from friending her mother on Facebook. Though I did go, a few years later, to a big surprise 80th birthday party for her mother. I just looked to see if I’d given the friend a pseudonym. Yes. Julie. So a couple years ago I went to the 80th birthday party for Julie’s mother. I walked in and both Julie and her sister let out a dropped-jaw “wow!” Apparently they were impressed with how I look in my old age. Of course, all the stuff about my being unattractive isn’t how I looked. It’s how I perceived myself, helped by a number of people along the way.

Anyway, my reaction to the nickname reflects just how strongly I felt, and feel, about the whole thing. My experience made it easier to deal gently with my own kid, but it’s a whole new world in that regard anyway.

So I found myself thinking about the idea of going out and camping in my woods when I was, say, 8 or 9, and realized it would have been weird given that problem. I wouldn’t be surprised if I’d found that under those circumstances it simply never happened. Because of it and not having many friends who would have been candidates for that anyway, there weren’t sleepovers with friends until I was past that. My last bestie before Zack was a girl, a year older than me, and while I could swear I have a memory of sleeping over there, it is probably based on a memory of being there at breakfast time. I wouldn’t have risked it. I slept over my grandparent’s house and don’t remember wetting the bed there. I probably did more of that closer to the point where it stopped, at which point it had waned for a long time, than I did younger. Maybe there were environmental factors to that, too. I got sick when we moved into the house where I grew up, for environmental reasons. Whatever. I also don’t remember it happening when we went camping. If it were a rare thing, I might connect it to the nerve damage I suffered as an infant. That made me seem retarded while actual being highly intelligent, but probably wasn’t behind the loss of nocturnal control. Then again, puberty was when I shed the bulk of the physical effects of the damage, though it took into my twenties for that to be complete for all practical purposes. To this day I take unnatural delight in being able to speak glibly and do physical things most people would take for granted. The thing is, the kid with the problem had no such thing. Nor the environmental factor, at least not to the same degree.

I didn’t intend this to be the bed wetting post. Yet there it is.

I suspect it didn’t happen all that often, or it would have been even worse. It’s just that it was like the end of the world every time it did. It would be an interesting personalized alternate history: What if there had never been bed wetting?

Cognitive Dissonance Or Mind Goes First

I spent some time helping my brother with tax-related stuff and asked him about the time we went to The Guess Who. When I tried to determine when I went to each concert, I was absolutely convinced it was in 2005 because I “remembered” being already married at the time. All I could find was a tour in 2002.

It was 2002.

August 31, 2002, now that I just went and looked it up exactly.

So I will go update the concerts post accordingly, and boy don’t I feel silly.

I’d also been perusing the county registry of deeds online search feature and learning all sorts of things. One of them was that my father bought the land for his new business location in 1972, “long before he built the new place there,” and with the mortgage held by the seller. He bought a small house “before he ever met the woman who would become his second wife, and before he ever bought the land for the new business.” He actually bought that house in the beginning of 1973. I clearly remember going to dinner at her place, so two of us kids could meet her and her two kids, in the fall, sometime after he’d met and started seeing her. That was 1972. Unless he was renting the little house before he bought it and so I am confused because he did already live in it, it means he did not in fact own the house before he met her, though he did own it before they were married in June 1973. It means he bought the land before the house. Further, it turns out he built the new building for the business in 1973. Now, that actually makes sense to me because I was having cognitive dissonance regarding the timeframe when I thought it happened and how old I remember me and the other kids being when we hung out at what was still a sandpit at the time. He bought the land while it was still being excavated for sand and gravel, and the spot where he built was down to street level first.

I think I was thrown by the memory of meeting one of the neighborhood kids for the first time because he’d come hang around the business. That was long after it opened, but I think of it as being right afterward. I may also have been thrown by the association of a minibike my father owned and I used to ride through the woods behind his temporary location with the memory of it also being used when my stepsisters were in the picture.

And this is why I’m trying to pin down some of the details of the past so I know them with certainty. It bothers me not to be accurate and it’s way too easy to remember inaccurately, or never to have known clearly in the first place.

Temptation Eyes

Or: One of My Stranger Misheard Lyrics.

When The Grass Roots came out with Temptation Eyes in 1970, I just loved it. It’s so catchy. It never gained any special association with an individual. It was too early for that. I know I heard it partly via my brother, but it didn’t really stick as a song associated with him. One of the guys in the band actually reminds me of him in appearance.

Later I associated I’d Wait a Million Years with Daphne, appropriately, since I’d have had to wait that long. Midnight Confessions came to be associated with the wife’s wandering back when it was at its height and I was at my most irritated and hurt about it. I had an entire playlist of songs for that. (Speaking of, I love when I’m banging away at the keyboard and she starts talking, so I keep pausing to try to remember what I was thinking and saying, then bang furiously some more before the thought can slip again, rinse and repeat, as during these two paragraphs up to about where I started this parenthetical. But if I can do that, it beats all the times I’ve been trying to type something and just had to stop, never again to remember my train of thought.)

So the funny lyric things? Remember I turned 9 in 1970. Then they sing “I want her all for myself” with the words somewhat slurred, I was hearing “I wanna roffle myself.” Roffle?! I had no idea what they were saying. Now we have ROFL, so if you hear roffle it might be ROFL. It didn’t take long for me to figure it out. Not years and years and needing the web to do so, at least. Too funny.

I’m surprised the song didn’t chart higher. At the time they were current, this and Sooner or Later were the songs I knew them for. Two Divided By Love, too! How could I forget that. It was another from my separation playlist.

 

Sunday School

We’re talking – well, mostly the wife is talking while I play solitaire so my mind won’t wander – and the subject of Normal Borlaug came up. I had forgotten Borlaug’s birthday was on March 25th. Back in my blogging heyday, I would observe his birthday with a post. He was one of the greatest humans in history.

I interjected that I’d first heard of Norman Borlaug in Sunday school, of all things. Before I rebelled when I was 13 and refused to go to church any more, I would go some weeks and up to a certain age there was Sunday school. This could be fun and interesting, actually. I remember reading and learning about Borlaug in some publication that was the Sunday school equivalent of Weekly Reader. I never forgot that, young as I was.

For all I wasn’t religious and rebelled, I have a soft spot for the church basement where Sunday school was held. I also remember is being in the parish house when I was really little. I also have fond memories of the sisters I crushed on via church, first the one a little older and then the one a little younger than me.

Oh, I remember what I wanted to say besides mentioning Borlaug. School was for the most part a negative experience for me. Sunday was a day off from school. Thus there was extreme dissonance in putting the words Sunday and school together. Ugh. It didn’t have the pressure of school, but it was something I had to do and didn’t want to. It also involved people. A group of people of some size. This was never good for my autistic side and the need for down time.

Little Details

I’m not going to remember them offhand, but I was thinking about writing up some little details I’ve noticed along the way. The impetus for this is that I was just reminded of what I noticed about the trolley in the end credits.

Now, I didn’t notice that Mark’s double is on the trolley with Tracy because Mark couldn’t be there the day it was filmed, any more than I ever realized that most of the race on sports day was run by his double. It’s not enough of a closeup on the trolley. In the race you can only see it, maybe, if you know. The fact that the trolley going off into the distance was filmed on a different day from the rest of the end anarchy is a reminder that filming takes time and isn’t easy. You could say it takes takes. Takes and takes and more takes.

What I noticed is that the trolley goes way into the countryside. That view from about is not showing London proper. It’s full fledged countryside. Perhaps not as far from the city as you’d have to go now, almost fifty years later. That begs the question of where they’ll go, and what happens after. Or begs the question even more.

When they are in the headmaster’s office, we see him standing adjacent to them, and what’s on the wall? A giant picture of him! Not a predecessor or historical figure. The headmaster has the wall decorated prominently with his own picture. The filmmakers didn’t have to do that, and it’s subtle. Relatively speaking, anyway. How many people are going to go to the theater and watch Melody over and over, as if the year is 1977 and the film is Star Wars? Well, apparently plenty, in Japan, but still. Come for the short skirts and young girls! Stay because it’s a great story!

The first time we see the hordes of kids pouring into the school and heading to class thunderously, there are tiny vignettes. One kid drops his satchel all the way down to the ground floor. That could be a complete throwaway, but a moment later we see the same kid struggling down the stairs, against the tide, because of course he’ll need to fetch it.

There are little details like on Saturday after Boy’s Brigade and then setting his dad’s paper on fire, we see Daniel’s satchel in the background of his room.

I just realized that in the cafeteria nobody has a drink. They have plates of food, not trays like when I was in school. No milk or other drinks. I supposed that the anti-detail.

Going through fast and looking for things I’d otherwise forget to mention, I just noticed a clock on the wall at the dance. In theory, that speaks to the time of day questions, if they’re that attentive to details. It’s fuzzy, but the clock appears to say it’s about 5:30. There’s another one when melody is consoling Peggy, but it’s impossible to see it.

In terms of how light it appears outside afterward, it could be that late, circa May/June. It’ll make tea a bit on the late side, but it is the weekend.

Unrelated to details, there’s a girl who is not quite but almost part of the main group and I am curious who she is. You see her laughing with Melody and others at field day. At lunch, if you look past Melody as she looks toward the boys, she’s on the left and laughs her ass off when Melody and Ornshaw make faces at each other. Rhoda is to the right past Melody. She has enough presence that I’ve wondered for a while. She gets to be there and laugh, but unless I’m mistaken gets no lines. I might be able to find out at some point.

I love the little detail of Melody and Muriel watching the high jumps and applauding furiously for Robert Sinclair. Then Melody gives Muriel what I’d guess to be a pep talk about going after him. The next jumper delays her, crashes and burns, then she scurries after Sinclair as Ornshaw watches. After she leaves, the girl I wondered about is talking to Melody inaudibly, the girls gathered around, making Melody laugh. The same girl is talking after Daniel collapses and you see Melody say what appears to be “what!” Until I noticed that, I wondered what Melody would make of Daniel fainting. Heck, I’d still love to see the post-faint scene where everyone gets all excited and his mother is a pest.

Why should Dicks need to tell the kids what color the Young Latin Primer is? And why should the page he has them turn to later in the movie be 24, a lower page number than 27 earlier in the movie. Also, it’s late in the school year. Page 24? 27?

Note that Dicks is asking Ornshaw why, why, why in an echo of Ornshaw earlier asking for details about W.I.C.

As Daniel and Melody leave, there’s a clock on the wall. It looks like it may say 4-something, but it’s hard to tell. That seems late, considering the punishment appointment was for 3:30 and the whole thing didn’t take that long. On second look, it looks more like it says about 3:50, almost 4:00. That’d make sense. If they were actually paying enough attention to details that they set the clocks appropriately in case viewers noticed, that’s impressive.

When they arrive at Melody’s building, I think of the scene with the little girl as a subtle detail. We saw her being one of the kids and now she’s not.

It’s not a background detail, but all of what goes on around the table is great. Daniel just adores her family and you can see it. Melody is repeatedly irritated at her father.

Harking back to the free range thing, nobody is the least bit concerned that Melody is only just arriving home at tea time, even though school got out presumably at close to 3:30. They have no phone. They have no awareness of where she might be. And again, you see extremely young kids playing out in the yard. Not that it should be a problem, given all the adults around able to see them easily. However, early on, extremely little kids were tagging along behind the rag man, or out walking their own goldfish without being in a gang or even nominally with an adult. In a city. I always thought of that as being much scarier than being in the country where I was.

Not that the woods and swamp were perfectly safe, even with fewer animals around then. I was in my teens before they released wild turkeys in an effort, overwhelmingly successful, to repopulate them. That eventually brought back coyotes and coywolves. There were almost no deer then. Now they’re almost a plague. You didn’t see bobcats as much, and there weren’t rumors of mountain lions. There weren’t bears, even the tiny number known to be around. The swamp had giant snapping turtles and snakes, but those were something like black racers. Easy to avoid and completely harmless, respectively. The swamp had been drained and reshaped, which probably disrupted wildlife for a while. There were stories of people going in and never coming out. There was black muck that you could get stuck in. There was allegedly quicksand, but I never wandered into areas where it might be. The roads in town were almost entirely free of sidewalks. Now any new roads must have them, and they often retrofit them when rebuilding. Now you can stay on a sidewalk from the end of my street down most of the length of the main road through town.

Anyway, nothing else leaped out at me on a quick skim watch through the movie when I was working on this last night. I did look closely enough not to identify where all the rooms are in Melody’s apartment, but to see that the place would probably have room for everybody based on how far apart the doors to the units are. I’m still suspicious that they gave that detail short shrift because allegedly the apartment was an interior set and that additional room never needed to be seen.

I guess it’s kind of related to note that Tracy’s hair color changes in places, as if some of the scenes are late in filming and the lower part has had a chance to get sun bleached, while in others it looks fully dark. I also previously mentioned a lack of attention to detail in the form of the ponytail appearing partway into the ballet scene. Also the view from behind the girls after the teacher drags in the boys, versus facing the girls, where you can see they are posed differently. Not important except to my OCD tendencies.

Update:
The girl I wondered about, if I am not mistaken, does have dialogue. She is the one, early in the film, in the gang of girls out on break, who asks “you kiss boys Muriel?” “Been out with your boyfriend, have you?” (I have no idea why I typed the wrong line, but I just happened to notice it so I corrected it.) Sitting down with my coffee before work I was thinking “hey, if she’s such a big part of the group of girls, why isn’t she in that scene?” So I looked with sound off. When I saw her talking, I turned it on long enough to play what she said.

Update 2:
That nameless character was played by Karen Williams. She had roles in four things from 1969 – 1972, and played herself in a 1980 documentary. Oddly enough, I had thought that might be her. Intuition, mostly.

I’ll Have a Screenplay Yet!

I’m laughing at my title, but anything is possible.

Even as I was bemoaning the difficulty of forcing yourself to do work that requires creativity, while I was at it, I added major components to the idea that’s been percolating in my head for a story a bit like Melody or Moonrise Kingdom, featuring elements from my own youth. Not sure I have an ending exactly, but I have a crescendo brewing.

I just have to keep reminding myself that the setting can never exactly duplicate what I knew back then, even though I would set it then.

I am also toying with the idea of incorporating one or more kids having seen Melody into the plot. I had already thought of that for a book idea I’ve had percolating for much longer. Indeed, I thought of combining the two things. Melody meets SF/fantasy.

I need to work on something of an outline for the more basic version and see how many holes I still have at this point. Perhaps then i can flesh it out and actually write it. All this writing of essentially stream of consciousness blog posts has gotten me used to the idea of sitting down and writing something. If I can put that to more directed use and then edit appropriately, maybe magic will happen to an old guy. Okay, not really old, but getting there and needing life to change. It’s harder to let yourself be truly old when your oldest kid won’t even be 15 until later this year.

Odessa

Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the release of the Bee Gees album Odessa, which I loved when I bought it sometime in the seventies or very beginning of the eighties. It’s the album that gave us First of May and Melody Fair. I’d like to think I heard those before I bought the album, but they weren’t big hits like Words, I Started a Joke, and so forth from the pre-disco days. It also has Give Your Best, so that’s a Melody threesome.

Morning of My Life (AKA In the Morning) predates Odessa, going back to 1965.

To Love Somebody also predates Odessa, as the second single from Bee Gees 1st in 1967. It was written by Barry and Robin for Otis Redding, who never got a chance to record it.

I’m still curious what the other two songs that could have been used in Melody were. Presumably David Puttnam would know.

I always loved the song Odessa. It’s one of those long, almost experimental songs, almost operatic, a bit surreal. The album was one of the unusual ones I could enjoy hearing in its entirety. That’s rare.

 

Concert Dates and Life

I recently realized that it’s 2019 and that I might be able to determine online the exact date of each of the concerts I had ever attended. In the process of almost complete success at this, I realized that I had been to even fewer concerts than I thought. I have already covered them almost completely in posts here. There’s only one or two that I missed, and if it’s the one, then it’s not a huge story. I expect I’ll include that below the list. I’ll put them in order, with artist, opener if noteworthy, date and venue.

Beach Boys
May 20, 1979
Providence Civic Center

Bee Gees
August 28, 1979
Providence Civic Center

Cheap Trick
Feb 28, 1981
Boston Garden

Moody Blues
July 15, 1981
Providence Civic Center

ELO
Oct 3, 1981
Boston Garden

Foreigner with Joe Walsh
Nov 5, 1985
Worcester Centrum

Pink Floyd
May 6, 1988
Foxboro Stadium

Styx with Pat Benatar
June 27, 1997
Great Woods

The Guess Who
2005???
August 31, 2002
South Shore Music Circus

The last one was weirdly stubborn. It has to be 2004 or 2005. It was warm. It wouldn’t have been warm in the part of 2004 it would have been or in the part of 2005 it definitely couldn’t have been. That puts it not earlier than April and not later than August 2005. Generally the Music Circus was a summer thing, unless I am mistaken, so that fits. I know it was not 2002, which is the year for which a date wanted to pop up.

I am almost certain Pink Floyd was the 6th and not the other date, the 8th. The flying pig didn’t work well at my show. It famously failed at one of them but it didn’t say which. There is video of it working flawlessly on the 8th. It was mildly rainy. Weather data for the 6th suggests it was the wetter day.

There was some minor possibility the year for foreigner was wrong, but the gap from it to Pink Floyd is right.

Apparently Cheap Trick was my third concert, and was the only one I didn’t mention before. It fits my memory of having gone twice to Providence, once to Boston, and then one last time to Providence. I always think of Providence as my favorite, although the Music Circus was a cozy venue. I went to Cheap Trick with my cousin, whose chauffeur I tended to be for a couple years. I was still driving my first car at the time, which he loved as much as I did. It was a 1969 Chevy Nova.

Cheap Trick was just amazing. I wasn’t terribly familiar with them, but playing live was what they did best. They were unusual in becoming huge due to a live album. They were amazing even from the nose bleed seats the entire length of Boston Garden opposite the stage. They were the farthest seats I ever had for a concert.

When we left, we found someone had siphoned gas from the car and it was reading empty. We made it home from Boston, with my cousin making up song lyrics, shades of Running On Empty, about the experience of riding along on fumes hoping to make it. We did. I dropped him off and made it home. These days there would have been numerous opportunities to get gas along the way. Not then at that hour. Even now, driving down the highway through Boston you don’t just see gas stations sitting right off an exit. You have to know they are there. If I come from the north and am running low, I don’t actually stop for gas until the Randolph/Stoughton/Avon exit on route 24, since that’s the first place where I know just where to go.

Looking at the dates, the last one of the early concerts was just before I got my first apartment. While I only had the first place for nine months, I segued from that to living at my father’s house and starting college three years after my peers. No more concerts for me! In 1985 I was still in college but things were weird. I had dated Layla from New Year’s Eve, last day of 1984, until it trailed off entirely that spring or just into summer 1985. I was feeling a bit rebellious. There had been a robbery late in 1984 at the store where I worked, where Layla had taken to coming in and chatting with me at length. I freaked out and quit. My stepmother yelled at me, not long after when she figured this out, “you’re not quitting!” I looked for work that wouldn’t be retail. At this point in school I was taking the first semester of Intermediate Accounting, and I believe I was also doing Auditing and Business Law II concurrently. The latter two memorable because they were both with the horrible professor I ended up with for five different classes in my major.

So I looked for work with CPAs locally. I was easily discouraged, so I tried three of them. On the third one, I decided to try Just One More. I opened a phone book, ran my finger down the listings and went with the one that “felt” promising. I wish that kind of thing were as reliable as my ability to “know” there’s going to be a speed trap. That guy hired me to start in February, when tax season would actually be getting underway. So I ended up back at the store, and doing both things once the other one started. I ended up doing almost everything an accountant would have done, just not doing an audit. As far as I know, he only had one audit client anyway. I prepared worksheets for it. I ended up there for nine months, until way after tax season. The CPA started acting odd in ways that made me wonder if he was having a fling or something, but what was actually happening is he was working on selling the practice and retiring. That, I learned not long after, was why the timing of when he was done with me. It was also why his daughter, who became a CPA herself not that long before or just after I was there, got another job and set the stage for my staying there past April.

I’d have been terribly busy up until shortly before the Foreigner concert, but money wouldn’t have been as much an issue as sometimes.

That summer, I think it was, Frank and his first wife packed up to move to Florida. I had the opportunity to help drive the truck to Florida and they would pay for a cheap flight back north. I’d get the drive and maybe a few days and then be home. My stepmother, on the heels of the job thing, insisted I was absolutely not going. In retrospect, going then would have been vastly preferable. By around the time of Foreigner I probably already planned to take the spring semester off and go to Florida to stay with Frank for a few months or more.

During this time, I was probably suffering what we’d now call PTSD from the robbery. This was exacerbated for a while by the fact the guys got caught and I had to go to court a couple times. Heh. One of those times, the girl who’d been there behind the counter with me for the robbery was also there. Later she moved to New Hampshire or something and fled being a witness. I drove her home afterward and she asked me in to “smoke a joint.” I had a test that day I had promised to show up for if I was able to get out of court in time! Mr. Honor Above All was so intent on keeping that commitment that he completely missed that sharing a joint was not what she was after. She was cute, too.

Under the whole thing of actually dating someone early in the year – someone I wasn’t really interested in – and the having a second job I was intensely proud of and things seeming great and my keeping busy, I was falling apart. It’s probably not so much that the divorce of my parents many years before came back to haunt me as it was provoked into being part and parcel of the PTSD, stress, anxiety, arguably depression interlude. My stepmother wasn’t without good points or intentions, but couldn’t have known she was interjecting herself into that sort of maelstrom and not necessarily the best one to do so.

Right, concerts. After Foreigner, I went to Florida at the end of December, without permission. Drove 1550 miles and thank God the car had no problems. Ended up living there in my friend’s apartment for about six weeks. After a couple weeks, I got a job full time nights at a convenience store. That was a lot of work but was fun, interesting, and different from the ones I’d worked in up north. When Frank abruptly decided he hated Florida Just That Much and was moving to New Hampshire now, I liked Florida enough to be tempted to figure out how to stay. My biggest concern was how to finish college. My stepmother had vehemently assured me I would never finish, which meant there was absolutely no way in hell I was going to Not Finish. Apparently my not graduating high school was a black mark, and the stellar GED scores that set me on the road to college were not enough to matter. I’d have been trying to support myself, by myself, in a strange place, while trying to get credit for the bulk of an accounting degree transferred to a more expensive school that required five rather than four years for the degree. The best I might have done is kept the job, rented a room – on basically a couple days notice that we were leaving – and hung out down there for longer. I could have gotten some other job on the side and just used my time for making money. The sad thing is I never so much as set foot in the Gulf of Mexico. That waited until a couple years later when I was in Galveston. I wasn’t really a beach person. Plus I was in a funk, even being in the good weather and warmth, and having my sinuses clear up while there. I seldom felt healthier as an adult.

Since I had vexed my father and stepmother so thoroughly, I moved in with my older brother when I got back. I took a job nights at one of the same stores I’d worked at through college. Eventually I ended up delivering papers for the rest of college. I returned to school via summer classes that summer, then did three more semesters and more summer classes in 1987. My last class was a final in MA318 on December 16, 1987, so I was officially class of 1988. Originally started in the class of 1986. In effect, I took an extra year, subtracting out the semester off.

My stepmother was disgusted enough that she gave my mother a hard time for taking me to celebrate “graduating.” Which is to say, I got my degree. I refused to participate in the graduation ceremony. I was still scarred by my high school experience. I picked up my diploma from the office in the administration building. I was also nearly as disgusted with college by then as with high school. I was unhappy with my accounting professors and didn’t want to do anything to make them look good. This put taking the CPA exam right out of the question. Besides, I wanted to do cost accounting. Ha! That pretty much meant being a CPA first. I was a disappointment in that regard, since I was one of the two top accounting students along the way in my year. They fully expected me to take the exam and be able to pass. My rival certainly did, then went to law school as well, emulating the horrible professor. Heck, last time I remembered his name and looked online, that guy had even become a professor like his hero, my nemesis. We were closest to being buddies in Accounting Theory class, which only had five of us in it. There was a girl in the class who had somewhat of a brain under the ditzy, but I dragged her across the finish line and made sure she didn’t blow the class. She’d not study or anything, and just before the class I would brief her, so she’d know what we’d be talking about and what to say if asked a question. She would repeat verbatim what I had told her. She got an A- while my rival and I each got a B+. This was an unvarnished example of the female professor favoring the one female student. She had been my beloved cost accounting professor a couple years before. In fact, that was what I took along with Intermediate Accounting I. That and something else. It was Auditing and B Law II the next semester. Anyway, I lost most of my respect for the cost accounting professor over her handling of the theory class. I dragged that girl into getting through the class, but the high grade was entirely in the imagination of the professor. She was probably a B. My grade was perfectly fair, so it’s not sour grapes about that.

It’s going to be weird when my kids graduate and I’m expected to attend, even though I am over it by now. I did actually attend the graduation ceremony for the year I’d have graduated if I’d not taken a semester off and had stuffed in enough classes in summers before then. The commencement speaker was a judge who got up and espoused communism. It was great! Seeing people I had known and offended enough for them to ignore me was also cool. That was the last graduation I attended. The caliber of commencement speech did nothing to encourage me when it would have been my turn.

Lucky for me, I graduated into a pretty dramatic recession and hijinks ensued. I’d have done pretty much everything differently if I had it to do again. That pink Floyd concert would have been close to my time of official graduation. I wouldn’t have gone had my brother not made it happen. I wouldn’t even have known there was a concert. That heyday was over for me. It’d be nine years later before I went to another, by which time we were into the era of nostalgia tours.

So there you have it. More than you ever wanted to know about me and the interlude when I fell apart, loosely in the context of “hey look, Google knows when most of the concerts happened way in the past.” This is a heck of a way to avoid more important things I needed to do.

Update:
I found out for certain that I was quite wrong about when the Guess Who concert was, so I corrected it in the list above.

Spam

I love getting a pile of spam comments every day. No real ones! Just spam. Not getting real ones might be a matter of “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it” or “silence is golden” and might be just as well, but hey. I get an awful lot of traffic for it to be nothing but spam.

Speaking of those old sayings, my late friend Frank, in 8th grade before I ever met him, had to give a speech in speech class. I didn’t have that class because I was in French instead. He got up, said “silence is golden.” That was it. When prompted, he added “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it.” The class loved it, of course, and I forget whether the teacher gave him an A or a B, but it was a decent grade that rewarded his cleverness.

Granny

A character that adds a bit of nuance to Melody is “Granny Perkins,” Melody’s grandmother who lives with the family. The thing is, she can’t be Granny Perkins. Melody’s name from her father is Perkins, and it’s obvious that Granny is Melody’s maternal grandmother.

There’s the relationship between her and Mrs. Perkins, whose name is Flo, as we learn from Granny. The two of them look like they could be mother and daughter. Obviously that’s a matter of casting. In real life at the time, if I remember right, Granny was old enough to be Melody’s great grandmother.

The big clue is when Daniel is at tea. Granny is talking, mainly addressing Mr. Perkins, and she refers to “my Ernie,” obviously speaking of her husband. If she were addressing her son, she would say “your father” or such, more likely. I could be wrong, but it strikes me as how she’d talk to her son-in-law instead of her son.

My father’s parents didn’t live directly with us the way Granny does with the Perkins family. They lived in the same house, in a pseudo-apartment that took four of the six rooms in the house. The first floor had two large rooms, which were a kitchen/ dining room, and a living room. The full bath was on the second floor with the grandparents, and the first floor had a half bath.

Yes, this made the place kind of small, for a large looking house. It had belonged to my grandparents. My parents had planned to build a new house across the street. It was the only house on the street, though there were several other buildings. On the opposite side there was a tiny building that was an office; a maintenance building of sorts, the only one that exists to this day, and the closest one to being usable as a dwelling; a pump house for our well; a storage building clad in green metal; and a similar building, originally, that my father had bought with a small lot for his business. Something I am not supposed to mention happened that resulted in his having to build a replacement, only to have it happen again, this time to be replaced on the other side of town instead. On the same side as us there was an old sawmill, which I only saw used once in my childhood; there was a long, low storage building that housed things like bulldozers and bog equipment; there was an even bigger green metal clad building similarly used for storage; and then there was a row of small shed-like buildings, clad in green metal, ranging from several feet square down to shallow closet sized. In the middle of those, one was an outhouse, which gives an idea what I mean by the range of sizes. Those lined the road as it started down a hill from the uplands down to the level of the swamp. There was a twin of the outhouse down in the swamp, in a wooded area between two sections of cranberry bogs. In their early years, the sheds had been used for storing munitions, from what I understand. That was the primary business of the man my grandfather worked for, who had originally owned all the land around us and the bogs. In later years, the largest and smallest of the sheds got hauled to our yard. The largest my brother and I used as a chicken coop. The smallest we used as more or less a potting shed.

My grandfather couldn’t afford the mortgage. Their kids were grown and only the youngest still lived there. My father prevailed in the battle over whether we would take over that place, house the five of us in two rooms and the cellar and keep his parents housed, or build our own place. There were conditions, like what he would do to finish the cellar to make viable rooms out of it. It wasn’t the end of the world and I certainly never knew better as a kid, but it only got part of the way there. The marriage was probably doomed then and there, even if it hadn’t been already. It’s interesting having a clearer idea of the dynamics of a situation like that, now that I’m an “old misery” myself. I can understand how they irritated each other, and I always knew it wasn’t one-sided.

It was cool having the grandparents around. Handy, too. Between older siblings, my father working a stone’s throw up the street, and grandparents handy, there was never an issue with an adult being around if needed. Not that my grandmother babysat us, per se. My mother didn’t work, but we were babysat by my mother’s younger sister a couple times before I was school age. We also saw a lot of my mother’s parents, and stayed with them a lot. We didn’t get left in her care, but we also visited my great grandmother, my mother’s mother’s mother, regularly. My oldest got her name. Unfortunately, she hates the name. Oops.

So to me the Waltons weren’t strange, having the grandparents living in the same house, even though ours were semi-separate. It’s probably much more historically normal to have multiple generation households than not. Or three+ generation, really, since parents and kids are multiple generations. But, you know, multiple adult generations. The dynamics might be something to be worked out. Finances, too, since that might be part of the point. I can totally see having my kids live with me after they are adults, but not as people I’m supporting when they are in their thirties. I can see living in the same house with them and their kids. It’s a source of stability.

I still haven’t figured out where they fit Granny Perkins in that apartment. Near as I can tell so far, you go in and the kitchen/dining room is on the right. Adjoining it and next on the right is the living room. Melody’s room is directly at the end of the hall, and before that is the master bedroom. Before that must be the bathroom, though for some reason I thought that was on the right. But if the bathroom is on the right, it would be in the same spot as the living room. Since you can see the kitchen from the living room, well… I’d have to review and see if I am clear again. Maybe she’s in a closet on the right before Melody’s room? It’s all supposedly a set built in the main building they used for filming, which doesn’t explain the appropriate views out the windows. Maybe that’s CGI. Oh wait… 1970. LOL.

Darn, gotta go to the dentist and either publish this without reviewing it or save a draft. I think I said what I wanted, if not well, so I’ll go for it.

People Are So Gullible

That’s all. Otherwise I’d be saying too much. It’s sad to watch someone otherwise admirable being awesome and then at the end have them reveal themselves as a dupe.

Of course, my father would say I’m gullible. My wife never forgave him for that. But being taken for a ride by a fraudulent local repair shop is minor league.

More Concerts

I mentioned previously my first and most recent concerts, and said I’d fill in more later. It’s later. I’m afraid I don’t remember the order of the concerts after the Bee Gees and before Styx with Pat Benatar. For what it’s worth, whoever opened for the Bee Gees was nobody you ever heard of and was pretty bad, but I still thought it was mean that people booed them so mercilessly. I rather like the more modern approach of pairing bands that are closer to peers than to have an unknown like Jimi Hendrix open for the Monkees. But to be fair that’s a nostalgia tour marketing concept.

It’s so weird trying to drink anything when you’re numb after getting a filling. Just a side note.

I am pretty sure my last concert before Styx was Pink Floyd, in my only trip ever to Foxboro Stadium. My youngest brother treated me. I wouldn’t have thought to go to Floyd, as much as I loved The Wall and wondered how Roger Waters had gotten into my head when I first heard it at Daphne’s house when it came out. And of course, I try to do a non-Melody post and what happens? There’s a direct connection between Melody and Pink Floyd! Sir Alan Parker went from ad copy writing (writing marketing material is fun! But it can be hard and takes a lot of creativity, from what exposure I’ve had to doing it) to writing a screenplay to directing. The screenplay was Melody. The directing bug bit him when he did some second unit stuff, not even credited, I believe, on Melody. Outdoor stuff with gangs of kids. The field day specifically, if I remember correctly what I read about it.

Parker went on to direct, among other things, Fame, which I saw with my friend Perry and possibly Joan in 1980. Love me some Irene Cara! Speaking of connections you can make, you go from Irene Cara to Electric Company to Joss Whedon;s father to Joss and, you name it: Avengers, Buffy, Dr. Horrible, but of course for me it’s Firefly. We considered naming our middle child Kaylee. Turned out it would have fit, but it had also become surprisingly common, in one spelling or another.

Digression. It’s what I do. It’s who I am.

Then Parker directed Pink Floyd: The Wall, which was released in 1982. I didn’t see it until 1985, at Layla’s house. It was pretty wild. Not what the album made me visualize. More fascinating than the fact that he connects to Pink Floyd and it’s fun to make these connections is that he directed a large gang of rebelling school kids in The Wall. It seems somehow… familiar. Gotta teach your children well, not employ darkly sarcastic thought control.

That Pink Floyd tour was the one where they had a huge pig suspended over the place. Not sure the whole thing worked as intended. The lasers in the foggy air were wicked cool, though.

I am 99% sure that the concert I went to before Pink Floyd was Foreigner, with Joe Walsh as the opener. I didn’t know from Joe Walsh at the time, apart from Life’s Been Good, which is actually a song I associate with my friend Frank. His show was awesome. I was in the men’s room when Rocky Mountain Way started. I remembered the song from my childhood, but couldn’t have told you who did it, and wouldn’t have remembered it if not prompted by hearing it. I wasn’t expecting Life in the Fast Lane, another song I associate with Frank. So there were three hits, and the stuff I didn’t know at all was good. The way music you hear in concert is usually better than you might perceive it to be if you tried listening in another setting and format. I’m not sure I would say he was worth the ticket all by himself, the way Benatar was, but he was damn good.

Foreigner, the original lineup, was just amazing. The connection to Floyd is that I took my youngest brother to Foreigner, his first concert ever. That was at the Worcester Centrum, my only trip to that venue. He was blown away. That was his response, some time later, treating me to Pink Floyd.

Foreigner was one of those bands that seemed like they kept playing and playing and playing and it would go on endlessly, with every ounce of energy at the end that they gave away from the beginning. The live version of Hot Blooded is great live. It doesn’t belong on my greatest hits CD, thankyouverymuch. They have the distinction of being the only band ever to leave my ears hurting. It lasted a while, too. That’s not necessarily a good thing, but I guess it’s a risk you take.

One relatively early concert I went to was one of my all time favorite bands who are the Bee Gees, the Moody Blues. Not one of the amazing, fancy concerts where they have an orchestra to help them do justice to things like the tracks off Days of Future Passed. Passed, not past, people. There’s probably a linguistics lesson in there somewhere, but I’m no Mark David Ledbetter.

This was not one of my better concerts. It was cool. I got to see the Moody Blues! Their new music was also good, from Long Distance Voyager or whichever one they were promoting. The company was abysmal and made the evening miserable. If I were to talk about songs reminding me of Daphne, the girl who messed with my head so thoroughly that I arguably still haven’t recovered, I would have to include Moody Blues as an entire band. Luckily that doesn’t ruin them for me. We both already loved them. It was one of the things we had in common. That and space. I’m not sure I ever met anyone else who shared my dream at the time of starting a private space launch company. Obviously that didn’t happen, but it was at the heart of one of my earlier book (series) ideas after I realized if I couldn’t ever do it I at least could fictionalize it. I was floored when I read Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon a few years later and saw the commonalities and by how many years he’d beaten me to it, albeit in short form. I don’t know when I might have read it had I not signed up for a US literature class for which part of the reading came from Heinlein’s The Past Through Tomorrow. After having bought that for the class, and having been thrilled the professor was that cool, I had to drop the class before it even began. I made sure to sign up with the same guy a later semester, but then he had switched to Lovecraft. Just not the same! Though I don’t regret the exposure to it. It was something my late uncle loved.

Wow, that was a digression. I only remember who one of the other people with us was. She and he are both FB friends these days. I think another one of the people with us may have been a guy she pined for and had ground down into having sex with her, once, and ensuring I knew about it, while maintaining the bizarre… virginal?… act toward me. That aside, everyone seemed to be in a tempestuous mood. The drive there was unpleasant and argumentative. The mood in the group of us in the venue itself was, well, moody. It was a relief for it to be over, even though the concert proper did settle things down.

In terms of company and the moods people were in, that was the worst. It wasn’t as bad taking abuse from Zack’s sister over my accidental purchase of seats with an obstructed view for ELO. Which I know I mentioned somewhere, but should also go in a post specifically about concerts. Moody Blues were the third of my three concerts at Providence Civic Center. I can remember two at Boston Garden, but I may be forgetting one. I’ll get back to the rest of the concerts another day.

Sequel

I was thinking never mind a remake. A sequel could have been interesting. It could have answered some questions that will be left forever up in the air about what happened after, or it could have continued to leave ambiguity while still picking up later.

It could have been a bit like having a sequel to The Cutting Edge, another favorite movie of mine. Figure skating meets romantic comedy! What could be better? Besides something that resonates with my own childhood as dramatically as Melody manages. You come along later in their lives and they’re married. Hijinks ensue with their own kid and/or themselves. Times change. Kids not entirely. That they married for real would be some vindication, without regard for how they arrived there after whatever hell there was to pay for the antics at the end of the original.

Of course, in fan fiction anything could happen. A while back I saw someone posit a scenario where they find themselves at Hogwarts via the trolley. Surreal. Or you could put them in a post-apocalyptic situation. TEOTWAWKI could hit while they are off on the trolley, and they are fending for themselves, trying to get by with the clothes on their backs. Pure fantasies of whatever variety.

Skipping ahead would certainly fit the storytelling pattern of the movie. Just as we never see what happens when Daniel collapses after winning the 220. His mother panics! Get the medic! Maybe we don’t need to do more than infer just how traumatic it was for everyone to get their lives and schooling back to something passing for normal. Maybe we don’t need to know how the kids became married old miseries. They just are, and we revisit old friends later in their lives. Ornshaw graduates Top Gun, becomes a hero and gets to return there as an instructor. Wait, wrong movie. Since he’s actually smarter than the teachers, he goes on to become one and show how it’s done. Daniel becomes famous for his art. or at least struggles to make a living at it other than by illustrating Melody’s stories she writes for children.

Or we could throw them together years later, after they’d been torn asunder. Their love will never die, but if they are separated for a while, it takes the right circumstances for a reunion and a more adult romantic comedy before they actually live happily ever after together.

None of which is exactly where I was going with this. The wife started talking and had trouble stopping, much as happens too often when I start typing.

If you go with the Heinleinesque scenario of all realities existing even if they are fiction in our own, then there’s a very real alternate reality, timeline, dimension – whatever you care to call it – in which the events of Melody happened. Number of the Beast, but we’re not in Oz anymore. We don’t know anything about the fine details of that reality in the parts we didn’t get to see, or that came after, but they are happening to those people in that world. Except in the many worlds theory, we have infinitely branching timelines in which any little variation that could happen does happen, each propagating a new universe. Some seem familiar, even indistinguishable. Some seem utterly alien. It takes so little to make a change. A movie that’s released in 1971 and flops in the United States instead does well and makes stars of the people involved, or bigger stars of the already famous ones. That’s a huge ripple through time. Tracy Hyde becomes a household name. She has more and bigger roles. She never becomes a legal secretary. A ten year old boy who’s not entirely different from Daniel Latimer sees it and his life is changed. A far cry from seeing it 47 years later than that and feeling zealously happy yet wistful. Might not be as big a change as we’d have if that movie George Lucas released in 1977, you know, the space one, hadn’t flopped, but… oh wait, that one didn’t flop.

If you put those two concepts together, then every fiction is its own timeline, and every one of those varies and branches infinitely. The one captured by the purveyor of a piece of fiction in our world is just the one we know, not all that could be. Imagine that Icy Hot Song if Ned never lost his head. Or if Avienda, I mean, Ygritte, survived. You know nothing, dear readers.

Seriously, though, a sequel could have been fun. It would have required greater success of the original. While there’s been a great deal of inspiration provided by Melody, despite its cult status, giving us things like Moonrise Kingdom, since most people never heard of Melody, most people wouldn’t care to follow the rest of the story. A shame, but there it is.

1971 Was so long ago, I had to check with my siblings to see if we maybe had seen Melody. As expected, it was no. Never heard of it. I figured that the possibility existed that I could have seen and forgotten it. I doubt it, though. Much as I love First of May and Melody Fair, neither of those came to my attention until later in the seventies. I’d have known them from the movie. The thing is, I know for a fact that we went to see Flight of the Doves in 1971. I remember it being a big deal to my sister. That was yet another Jack Wild film. Yet all I can remember is that I saw it. I remember nothing about it. I remembered parts of the Planet of the Apes movies vividly. My father took as to all four, regardless of whether they might have been age appropriate. I think of myself as having an excellent memory, but things do get spotty from my youth. That wasn’t the best year ever, either, since my father had left in early 1970 and the divorce would be final in the latter part of 1971. Ironically, 4th grade was an exceptional school year for me, and that was 1970-1971. I had both my first crush on a peer, Carol, resembling Melody, and a crush on my pretty blond math teacher. I crashed in 5th grade and had one of my worst school years.  I’ve mentioned it before, but seeing Melody right when I had that first crush in Daniel-but-shyer (and younger) fashion would have been fascinating.

I’m rambling. (I know: “No kidding! You just figured that out?” Heh.) I should be asleep and instead I’m going on and on without saying anything further that pertains to the post. So I’ll stop and survey the damage now.

Peggy Swailscroft

Kay Skinner, now Kay Worsfold (I really like that picture), played Peggy Swailscroft in Melody. It’s always interesting to see whether the kids had been in other things before, and how long they acted after. In her case, that was her first role, and her short acting career ended with a 1972 release. Melody filmed during May through August 1970, when Kay was 12, and came out at the end of March 1971.

I bring her up for a few reasons. She is one of Melody’s closest friends. Besides her, that seems to include Rhoda, played by Lesley Roach, and Muriel, played by Camille Davis. Peggy plays an especially pivotal role, being with Melody at the dance. That makes her the foil – is that the right word? – making it harder for Daniel simply to go up and ask Melody to dance with him, but providing Daniel the excuse to bring Tom Ornshaw for moral support (courage in numbers). My take is that Peggy doesn’t read the situation right and, distasteful as dancing with Ornshaw may be, bear with it for the sake of Melody completing that dance with Daniel. Can’t really blame her, since he’d obviously rather be anywhere else but dancing with her.

Kay did a wonderful job playing that role. She captures the personality of the kid who would be amused to clue Robert Sinclair in so he’s aware of Muriel, then run away before Muriel can get her for doing it, and would play a central role in grilling Muriel about her apparent boy crazy exploits.

I’ve noticed that Kay has noted the cult following of Melody and has popped up online to note what a blast she had being in the film. The kids who were the stars have said similar, that it was a lot of fun.

Even if it was also work, can you imagine growing up, growing older, and having not only the memory, but also the thing you were in to watch. Like home movies, but different. So cool. And hey, she got to work with Roy Kinnear in her last role! She didn’t share scenes with him in Melody, but it looks like he might have played her dad in Raising the Roof. If so, that gives her something in common with both Melody Perkins and Veruca Salt.

We either never learn or have to be paying really close attention to learn both first and last names for the supporting kids. Is it strange that the girls we tend to know by first names and the boys by surnames? We learn Peggy’s name, though, except it took a transcript for me to catch it.

At the dance, there is an exchange between Ornshaw and the gang of boys, one in particular, in which we learn two things:

Hey, look at Swailscroft.
She thinks she knows it all.

Go on, Tom. Dance with her.

No, you won’t get me out there, mate.

I couldn’t hear all this clearly, watching even the best copy on YouTube. I thought Ornshaw was referring to Melody when he said something indistinguishable and that she thinks she knows it all. After all, there was no love lost between those two, and they had made faces at each other in the cafeteria scene. (Actually, Ornshaw does later say of Melody “She’s a bit stuck up, that one.” Forgot that when I first typed this.) But perhaps he’d know not to make fun of Melody in front of Daniel. If Melody was the last to know Daniel loved her, Ornshaw had to be the first. At that point, I had no reason to expect Ornshaw to dislike Peggy.

This is the one and only time in the entire film where Ornshaw is addressed as Tom, and the reason why the more perceptive or obsessed knew his full name. Then famous last words, not getting him out there. Between wanting to do most anything for Daniel and being susceptible to goading and the need to keep up his image with the guys, it was all over just after that.

As for the others, I think Lesley Roach as Rhoda is adorable in the film, and perfect in the key scenes she is in. Her last role was in 1976, but she was in a ton of stuff starting in 1966. She appears to have enough of a career that it’s odd that she stopped. But then, child actors often remain such and don’t make the leap to adult roles. Her name stands out because there was a Roach family locally that were family friends for a while when I was little. It appears that she and Kay have remained connected, or become reconnected. Here’s little clip of her playing a 9 year old when she was 16. I see that was 1971, which means she was closer to Jack Wild’s age than to the age of Tracy Hyde or Mark Lester. She tended to look as young or younger.

Of course, I’m going by IMDB, for film and TV roles. Any given actor could have gone on to do stage work. Camille Davis is listed with Melody as her first role, then with four more roles, all in 1982. She seemed older and more mature than some of the others, but she was “the big one” after all.

I took a big break with this unfinished, so I hope I didn’t lose the thread and end up sounding incoherent. The other kids, including Kay as Peggy, did a lot to help make the movie as great as it is. It’s just a shame it did so poorly in most markets.

I forgot to note that you hear Peggy’s last name not once, but twice in the movie. When Ornshaw is trying to get rid of Melody after the Latin punishment, before Daniel comes out, knowing full well why she is there, among other things he says: “Is old Swailscroft
waiting for you, is she?” That’s actually cleared than at the dance, but originally I had no clue who he meant.

Update:
The correct spelling may be Swailescroft. You never know what’s going to happen in something like a transcript. Both are out there, anyway. In either case, it doesn’t seem to be a real surname, so Google returns limited results. Kay seems to be involved in a Facebook group for Melody fans, which is cool.

Quaint Is The Word

When I wrote this post, I forgot that one of the thoughts I have now and then is how quaint things from now will seem to us in the future, just as things from just a couple years ago – you know, like 1980 or so – can seem quaint now.

So if it makes you feel better about how things are now, think about how quaint or dated things from now will seem in just a couple years, for instance, looking back from 2040, when I’ll be almost 60. Yeah, 60. If 80 is the new 60.

Nothing Lasts Forever But The Earth And Sky

As I was driving to the dentist, I had to pause for someone to turn to go to the athletic fields behind my childhood elementary school. For some reason, that sparked my thinking of how fast things go, and how they pass. An instant story in my head of a parent obsessed with what their kid was doing in elementary school made me think about how few years that represents, and the fact you’d be moving on from it, or finding yourself crazy.

I’ve had similar thoughts before, and have possibly even mentioned them here. Pretty sure I talked about how quickly the kids grew through stages and suddenly had moved on, sometimes leaving me feeling like I had missed something, or covered that phase inadequately.

Dust in the Wind lyrics aside, in the even longer run, even the earth and sky aren’t forever. We may not be around to see it, nor may our descendants. But flame-out of the sun or heat death of the universe or such are not what I am on about here.

It becomes easier to bear things that might seem less bearable, once you grasp, or if you remember at the time, that this too shall pass. I’ve always had issues with change, of course. Which is funny, for someone who grew up to understand and embrace the economic concept of creative destruction. It was devastating for me to lose my woods around our house, but it wasn’t our land. For a long time, I wanted to become rich enough to buy out the mobile home park that had been built there, buy out all the residents, and send it back to nature, as close as I could to what it had been. Yet is was predictable that something would happen with that prime land. It was arguably a much better use than, say, a development of 100 houses. In some alternate timeline exists the campground I wanted to put on part of the land while conserving the rest.

Hate your job? It’s not forever. Broke? It’s not forever. Stuck with a crazy marriage? It’s not forever. Bad day at work? Tomorrow will be another day. Hate who’s in office? Unless you wanted enough of a revolution to change the constitution and elect a dictator, such a popular move on the part of dupes around the world, there will be another election down the road.

It’s not always easy, even if you know this. When you’re young, you don’t. It’s all urgent. Of course, you are also helping to drive, so you can make change happen if it needs, or make things more or less bearable while you wait. It can be hard to remember that reality as we experience it is a construct in which we all have a hand.

It has seemed a long time already, and a short time, but in six short years my youngest will be at the end of high school. That’s no time! I’ve held the same job for almost ten and a half years. That’s probably absurd, but during much of that it was arguably the best option. It’s not necessarily now. Even if I don’t actively seek to change it, it’s not forever. If I really had to, even without having identified what I want to do when I grow up,* I could find something to replace it and possibly improve on it.

Please be patient with your life, as the Bee Gees might say.

* There are things I did over the years that are now “my heyday” that I would never have expected to be the high points of my life or career. It makes me wonder if this happened to people like my grandfather, with his stories of being a supervisor at shoe factories. Did he figure there’d be more, or was that just fine and he never regretted that being all there was? Makes me wonder.

Free Range Kids

It annoys me that there has to be an expression to describe “free range children.” Back in the olden days, we simply called them children. Yes, not a Melody post! But that inspired it, because it’s such a dramatic image of another time and place. The past is, after all, another country, and that was another country and in the past. It was also a different environment from the one I grew up in, city instead of rural.

I learned to ride a bike when I was 8, rather old because of my mild physical retardation from meningitis as an infant. I believe I talked about this in one post or another in the past few weeks. Once I could ride, that was it! I was gone! I had wings. Nobody thought a thing of my riding three miles to visit friends.

Even before that, though, I was walking all over the woods, to the nearest beach, to the store (over a mile away), and of course to the bus. We had to walk a third of a mile just to get the bus to school. It was rare and frigid for me to get a ride. My mother walked me to the bus, which stopped even farther away, for the town’s version of kindergarten. That was for a short time during the summer before first grade. It gave them a chance to teach us how to go to school and give us some bare preliminaries. Which was funny for me, since I already knew how to read. I don’t remember ever not knowing how to read, so I would guess I learned sometime in the 3-4 years old range. It was physical retardation. After that I walked with my older siblings for first grade, with my sister for second grade, and by myself thereafter. My kids had to walk to elementary school just a little farther than my walk to the bus. We ended up being expected to walk with them through third grade, even though they were considered fine to walk home by themselves.

Someone called the cops on the youngest when he went out to play with a kid about three houses down the street at the age of about 5. That was a little young, but it was also close, with a sidewalk and not busy street. I never did figure out who called. We taught the kids from a young age not to dash into the street and how to cross safely if they needed to. Compared to where I grew up, it’s downright urban, but really it’s a quaint old factory town’s downtown, the outskirts of it, basically suburbia, in a town that ranges to pure rural, cranberry bogs, and thick woods.

Circa first and second grade, I hung out with a kid, Reggie, who lived about a mile from the end of our street (end of our street being the bus stop, 1/3 of a mile from our house). He was on the other side of the main intersection and only traffic light in town. The big business at the junction was a liquor store/variety story with a gas pump. While we spent some time in his house, mostly we ranged around outside. We freely crossed the street. We walked back along the main road most of the way back to my street. We would collect bottles to turn in at the store so we could get ice cream bars or candy. Nobody thought the slightest thing of it that six or seven year old kids were doing this. That would have been about 1967-1968.

I think the last time anyone worried about my going walkabout was when I “went to pick blueberries” when I was 3 and it was the wrong time of year. The dog went with me. Then they went out in the woods and swamp to find me. I gather I wondered what all the fuss was about. Since my father’s business was maybe a tenth of a mile or so up the street from us, I would range between there and the house, almost as early as that age. I’ll never forget being no more than 5 and rushing down the path that was a shortcut between the two, trying to get home and failing. The business had an outhouse. The outhouse tended to attract hornets and I didn’t like it anyway. What a mess! I remember my mother cleaning me up while I stood in the bathroom sink. At least if all we had to do was pee, well, we lived in the woods. The world was our urinal.

I had to save this so I could go to bed on time. It’s always disorienting to pick back up on something like this after it has sat. If it veers off from this point even more than usual, that’s why.

Actually, I can remember going up the street to a building my grandfather worked out of, not long before he was disabled for good, and riding down the street with him on a giant bulldozer. I probably wasn’t even 4 yet then. I know i was extremely young and it’s one of those super early but vivid memories. He had worked for the original owner of all the land around us, who died two years before I was born. He had actually been involved in draining the swamp and building cranberry bogs many of the adult relatives would be employed on during harvest when I was little. We would hang out and watch, maybe hand pick rogue cranberries from the banks around the bogs. The house I grew up in was built for the guy he’d worked for, whose wife then refused to move there. That was how my grandparents came to buy it. My parents took it over when my grandparents couldn’t afford the payments. Originally they had planned to buy land and build a new house across the street. Weirdly, that house exists in my head, along with an imaginary house that never existed on a rise on the other side of the swamp from where we were. Both of those are yellow, whereas the house we ended up in was always white. The house on the other side of the swamp would appear in dreams when I was a kid, with us living in it. It wasn’t something I simply imagined. The house we didn’t build is more a matter of imagining it, knowing it could have happened, rather than it being pure fiction of my subconscious.

Anyway, when I was a kid, I walked all over. I rode my bike all over. When my father’s shop was in another part of town, I walked there from school some days. There was no special permission needed to leave school on foot rather than bus one day.

By the same token, if we were absent from school we were absent. Daniel and Melody didn’t go to school that day and paid the price later. In my case, we were supposed to take a note to the office the next day. I remember that in high school, but not in elementary. However, I seldom missed school in elementary. I was sickly after moving to the house I grew up in, mysteriously, and they eventually injected me with gamma globulin as an experiment to see if it’d help my immunity. It was years before I was sick again to any degree. Then I was sickly the last two years of high school and beyond, to varying degrees ever since. Since the cause became clear after a while, that provided insight into the mystery of my chronic ailment when I was very young, and why (I found out later) it didn’t start until after we moved. Also, it didn’t actually not affect me during the years after the gamma globulin. It just stuck to the more subtle aspects.

If one of my kids missed school, especially elementary, you had to call by a certain time. Like calling out sick from work. In middle school you just call the office, rather than there being a special voicemail line for it. If you don’t call them, they call you to find out if you know your kid isn’t at school. After all, kidnapping! Is! Rampant! Or something.

While my kids are mostly homebodies, they do stuff like walk to the store. The major street between us and many things you might want to walk to is not for the faint of heart, but between us and downtown, and to cross either main road downtown, is not so bad. The oldest is 14. She had a good friend not all that far away, and would walk there, but the friend’s mother kind of freaked out at the idea of doing so, especially in the dark. Conversely, the day her kid got off the late bus and came here, her mother called the police to come get her and was completely freaked out. Granted, the kid was messing with her mother by having her phone’s “battery die so she couldn’t call.” Probably just as well the kids had a falling out. You get too restrictive, then you have offspring who explode later. My kids wouldn’t feel like they couldn’t ask to go, or tell us where they were going. They aren’t as free range as I was in part because they don’t care as much, and in part because it’s a different place and time. At least we’re not stopping them, and they’re all old enough that nobody should be reporting them as unaccompanied kids as so many idiots have done with no good reason.

When I watch Melody, it’s awesome to see the kids roaming around London. They’re not only going to and from school, but also gallivanting around otherwise. It’s awesome to see two 11/12 year olds able to hop on a train and go to the seaside – on a school day! – and nobody questions it. Nobody wonders why they are hanging around at the beach, going on rides, riding the train, all without an adult. Or nobody wonders enough to call the authorities, anyway. that’s old enough that even here and now they might be fine. We’re nominally walking distance from the commuter rail to Boston and points between here and there. Two of the kids are old enough to ride as unaccompanied minors, and would probably receive little or no scrutiny.  In theory, one of them could decide to walk over to the station and pop up to Boston for the day, as long as they had the money. It’s kind of the equivalent. At the actual and apparent age of Melody and Daniel, that wouldn’t be possible. The youngest might even pass for old enough, if it came to it. I can’t see why any of them would think to do that, but it’s there.

When I was 14 and 15, I was riding my bike to high school, about five miles. I was riding to my friend’s house, an additional maybe two miles. I was riding to buzz around Ella’s house, go to the next town north from there, or a couple towns east of there, to watch drum and bugle corps practices, and I was riding home, often in the dark. The power of love. Google tells me the ride straight home from the far flung east practice would be about 7.4 miles. From the northern practice spot straight home would be about 9.6 miles. From the launching point where the group would go to practice, just a few houses from Ella’s, it’d be 5.9 miles to or from home. From there to the eastern practice spot would be about would be about 7.3 miles. So I’d go 5.9 miles, then 7.3 miles, then from there home 7.4 miles, all to stalk Ella and get those extra looks at her and see her in action, wielding a flag or a wooden rifle as part of a choreographed performance. All to the tune of MacArthur Park. It was a bit obsessive. No wonder I related so much to the boy in Endless Love when I read it several years later, and when I saw the film. Even though that was a sexual obsession and it hadn’t occurred to me yet that I ought to be after that as part of it.

I digress. But my point is I was still a freshman in high school, 14 turning 15, and I was everywhere. At that time in my life, I thought it’d be the Best Thing Ever to ride a bike across the whole country. It’d be cool, still, but I’m kind of used to driving. I’d love to drive across the country again, and glad I got even a marginal chance to do it once.

Do kids ride around like that these days? Even in the name of love? Maybe I’d have been glued to video games if we’d had them then. Who knows. Maybe technology moots the whole thing.

Recess

One thing that struck me in Melody was that in secondary school they have what are called breaks, which in elementary school are called recess here. Once I was past 6th and my kids were past 5th grade, in jr high school and middle school, there was no recess. In the movie it’s the equivalent of the first year of middle/high school. They have a morning break, even if we see no later one.

That could be there to fuel the plot, but I’d consider it more likely that such a thing existed at the time and thus was incorporated into the plot. That makes more sense than inventing it.

Given the amount of steam kinds have to blow off in the movie, it’s probably just as well.

We could have met the kids at school and seen some antics other ways than the break shown early in the film, but it worked well to introduce the gang of girls around Melody. Kissing Mick Jagger would have lacked context without it. The wedding, though, required the kids to go on break and not come back. Not sure how that many snuck away, with staff and older students monitoring, but then I still don’t know how Daniel and Melody left their houses “for school” dressed in street clothes and packed for a day of fun without being noticed. Besides adults being oblivious old miseries.

Anyway, it was just one of those things I found curious. By 5th grade, at least two of my kids didn’t care about recess. I was never a big fan, but I wasn’t one to run around wildly, and it was a social minefield. I didn’t want to go out there because there were people! OMG!  We didn’t have to work as hard as the kids in the movie seem to be required to, so they ought to need the break more than we did. For my kids, it is more like depicted in Melody, maybe more so, and was even before middle school. For my generation the teaching was lax, at least in my school system. Lucky we’re not a bunch of raving imbeciles.

 

Ages In Melody

I was thinking. I know, sounds dangerous. Unless I am mistaken, we are never given a definite age for the kids in the movie. Right? There are now two references that come at the possible ages indirectly.

One is when Melody is inconsolable with her parents, after the bad day that followed the day they skipped school to go to the seaside. When told that people generally wait to see if they like each other when they’re older, she asks how old. Her father says “in their twenties, older sometimes.”

She plaintively says “but that’s twice as old as I am now.”

Which only tells us she is at least 10, and that much was already obvious. She could be as old as 12 and still shorthand it to “twice as old” in reference to twenties.

We do know that Tracy Hyde’s age was 10 at the very, very beginning of filming in May 1970, and 11 from May 16 through the end of filming in August.

We also know that Mark Lester’s age was 11 when filming started in May, and 12 when filming ended in August, since his birthday was July 11. Probably just as well he was a year older, as it worked well for them to look the same age in the film.

Finally, we know that Jack Wild was 17 during filming, and turned 18 the September 30 not long afterward. He very much looks and seems older in the film, while still looking young enough to pass. In his case, actual age of the actor tells us nothing.

Now that I know what the headmaster is actually saying to Melody after Daniel discloses that they want to get married, there is another clue. Which I guess is about what I always took to be implicit. “I assume you’ve already promised your fair, freckled first-form hand in marriage to this young gentleman?”

As I noted, I could never figure out that the headmaster was saying first-form in that exchange. That’s an indication of grade or level in school, or it was at the time. First form in North America is equivalent to 7th grade. The surviving British term seems to be sixth form, but in that article it notes:

Pupils started their first year of secondary school in the first form or first year, and this was the academic year in which pupils would normally become 12 years of age.

In the US the year for turning 12 would ordinarily be 6th grade, or the 7th year of school including kindergarten. In a typical system with a middle school, that would be the first of three middle school years. I went to a jr high system, so elementary went through 6th grade, jr high was 7th and 8th, and then it was four years of high school. I think the system that ends at 10th grade, or 11th year, makes a lot of sense. A lot of high school was repetition or boredom, and that could be a good point to separate out the harder core academic track students from those who would pursue a more vocational or job training path. But I digress.

I had always imagined this as 5th grade, and thus particularly early, based on their ages. Further, it is obviously late in the school year, based on my analysis of the timeline from various cues. That’s a big difference, 5th to 6th. You could say that was the leap from cooties to not cooties, generally speaking. It didn’t take a stretch to imagine a similar story happening to me in 5th grade. For 6th it would just have been a matter of being one of the lucky guys who had a girlfriend. There was one I knew of in just my classroom, which was one of four or five classrooms for the grade.

In Melody, the kids actually seem younger and more innocent than that, except sometimes they don’t.

I’ve seen reviews or commentaries that range from describing the kids as 10 years old to 12 years old. Then again, I’ve seen reviews that made me wonder if the reviewer actually watched the film. Sort of the equivalent of dashing off a last minute book report for school based largely on the jacket description and what you imagine was in the book, or get from opening and reading a couple paragraphs in a few places and maybe the conclusion.

Speaking of conclusion, I think what I should probably conclude is that they are in the equivalent of 6th grade, AKA 7th year, and that if they are 11 in the film, they won’t remain so much longer. It all works with the skilled depiction of showing the two of them growing up dramatically over a short time. For that matter, it’s not clear either of them were still comfortable acting as young kids even when they still were shown that way. Melody was out of place with the gang of little kids mobbing the rag man. It was just… what she knew at the time.

So I’m going to call them 11, but high side. I am prepared to believe that Tom Ornshaw was actually older, maybe by a year. Wiser, if not. He’s a study all by himself. Bright but treated as stupid. Clearly older in outlook and wisdom than his form one cohort. I’m going to call them 6th grade.

AWstats

To get an idea of traffic here, I normally look at AWStats through the Cpanel utility on the web hosting. It drives me crazy, though, because it can be so hard to tell what’s actually going on. In theory, it gives you search strings that were used to get here. In reality, it doesn’t return enough of those to correspond to the traffic it claims comes from Google alone. In turn, the referrals from Google and other such things aren’t remotely enough to account for total traffic. At least it’s generally possible to get an idea of what the real traffic is, versus the traffic hitting from nefarious sources for reasons having nothing to do with reading my keen and witty insights.

One thing that surprises me is the amount of traffic that seems associated with feed readers. In the heyday of blogs, that would be a given. On a blog that went many years being mostly neglected, and that had much of its contents stripped in a change of CMS, and most of the rest stripped in a change of direction, that lost much of its readership all the way back in 2004… I think it was 2004… When the wife was hot to switch to a clever new domain and name after less than a year here. I’m just surprised that there seem to be so many, in effect, subscribers for me to bore because I won’t stop mentioning that Melody movie and such.

On the other hand, there are no comments, besides a few a day of spam comments. This could be because there’s nothing to say, but they certainly are enabled. I’d see it if any were held for moderation, which is the default if you haven’t commented before and been approved. I was a little nervous about comments, in case I say something unforgivably stupid again. On the other hand, if I lose my mind unawares, that’s a quick way for me to find out and mitigate any public displays of ignorance.

Anyway, it’s a shame Site Meter died many years ago. That was always the standard, and if not perfect, gave useful info. I don’t think I have this on Google Analytics, though I could add it if not, but I’ve never found that information particularly helpful. If nothing else, I’m not generally interested in hitting gnats with sledgehammers.

Concerts

I’ve never been a huge concert goer. Or is that concertgoer? Well, the second version passes as a correct spelling. Anyway, I nonetheless have gone to several over the years.

My oldest has already been to three. I think it’s three. That has been the wife’s gig, going with her to things they both like. I have been advised that if The Scorpions ever come up as a concert option, then it will be my job. The kid is a fan of all things German in the first place, and they ended up on her radar. Her last Christmas present this year was a super cool Scorpions T-shirt that finally arrived from Thailand in February. It gets worn a lot.

For me the band was part of the small German invasion that coincided with my four semesters of not learning a whole lot of German in college. The oldest has more from Duolingo than I maybe ever had, though it did leave me able to see a German word and pronounce it correctly. It doesn’t sound alien to me, and I might follow a little here and there. Then again, I could say similar about Spanish, working with so much of it around me. Nor does French sound alien, after three years of it in secondary school, learning it almost as successfully as I did German. The other artist of note that hit from Germany during college was Nina, with neun und neunzig Luftballons, AKA 99 Red Balloons in English. Anyway, I have owned their greatest hits for ages and had been more of a fan of the big hits, as tends to happen with me. I’ve listened a little deeper since the oldest got interested.

My last concert was the original lineup  (well, classic lineup anyway, with both Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings) of the Guess Who at South Shore music Circus in 2005, coming up on 14 years ago, courtesy of my older brother. At that time, I thought it was kind of dramatic that I’d not been to a concert since around 1996, and at least as long before that. Ha! The Guess Who was astoundingly good, doing Bachman-Turner Overdrive  hits as well as their own. You’d never know their heyday was 30+ years before. I’m so glad I went.

The concert before that was with my sister and brother-in-law. He’s a huge Styx fan, and saw them many times in concert. This was a Great Woods, with Pat Benatar opening for them. I remember the ticket was $35, and I don’t think it was later than 1997 or earlier than 1996. When Pat Benatar was done, I declared her alone to have been worth the price. She, and her husband on guitar, were just amazing. My brother in law told me I hadn’t seen anything yet. He was right. Styx, not quite the original lineup due to the unfortunate death of Chuck Panozzo. And since that was in 1996 and had been a year or two before the concert, that places it in 1997 or maybe 1998. It had been recent enough that the other guys sat on stage for a spell to talk about and memorialize him. I am so glad I saw them, both acts.

My first concert was The Beach Boys. The wife shares that distinction, but on the other coast. It was winter or early spring 1979, toward the end of my senior year. I had a car and was going to drive my friend Perry, but something happened so I couldn’t. I have no idea how the connection was made, but somehow my mother found out that a long time close friend’s daughter, my younger brother’s age, was going and they’d be driving her and her boyfriend. We could ride with them. That worked out. The concert didn’t blow me away or anything. It was mainly significant because I had never been to a concert and had no idea what it would be like. That was at the Providence Civic Center. It was my single most frequented concert venue.

Unless I am forgetting something, my second concert was the Bee Gees. That stands out more than average. It was August 28, 1979, the same day I started my first job that wasn’t self-employment. It turned out that my new boss went to that same concert that same night. Something like ten of us went together, in two cars. I drove one and my older brother drove the other. We were behind the stage, to your left side if you were out in the audience facing the stage. It was a little weird, but we might have been 30 feet from Barry Gibb. He tossed his sweat towel up to us near the end and there was a tussle over it. One of my cohorts had a pocket knife and was able to cut it into little pieces so a bunch of people, including my friend Joan who was there with Perry, could each have some of it. They and I were probably the very biggest fans of the band in the gang of us who went. I think the tour was in support of Spirits Having Flown, and they didn’t seem enthusiastic to do their older stuff that was my primary attraction. Some of the songs they did bits of in a medley, which was nice but disappointing. They did Words in full, but then Barry got visibly angry when he paused just before the end and people kept him from continuing by applauding too enthusiastically.

On the way home, I was following my brother. He got mixed up, got annoyed and was speeding after he got us turned around. The pair of us got pulled over by a pair of Rhode Island state cops who were brothers. That $30 ticket was my second and last speeding ticket to date. Within the next couple years I got a repair ticket from a cop in Belchertown, looking for U. Mass. students to torment as they passed through the town, for a headlight out.  I wasn’t one of those, but I’d been visiting Frank, who was. I replaced my sealed beam unit and then my father’s friend with a garage signed off on it.

I am beyond glad I got to see a Bee Gees concert, skimping on older songs aside. They have always been one of my favorite groups. I can remember vividly where I was in the house the first time I recall hearing I Started a Joke when I was little. My vinyl got destroyed, but until it did, I had collected everything I found by them. I had Odessa.I had the Rare, Precious and Beautiful albums. They’d done a serviceable version of Turn Around, Look At Me that could be found on one of those, predating my favorite version, an all time favorite song, by The Vogues. It’s nice to be able to catch a lot of that on YouTube these days, if nothing else.

That’s enough on concerts for now. There were others in between, some more memorable or awesome than others, but I probably won’t remember them in the correct order after this. Except I’m pretty sure I can identify my third and fourth from last ones, as they were well separated from the earlier ones, and had a connection to each other.

Math

Last Sunday the daughter and I were talking to Naomi’s stepfather at the party we attended. He used to be a teacher and was excited that she was so interested in science, currently being most interested in being a geologist. He actually sent her home with a hunk of lava rock that I believe he got from Mt. St. Helens, though I could be mixing the origin up with his story of having climbed up the mountain not too long after the eruption.

We talked about how much the kids love math. The oldest will be taking a double track in 9th grade, one of a few students selected by the head of the math department at the high school for that program. The middle school has an advanced math program you can be in for 7th and 8th grade, so you come out of 8th grade having already covered algebra. Two of the kids are doing that and I expect the third will as well, since if anything he tends to make it seem even easier than the other two. When he’s not being lazy. So the oldest will do geometry and algebra II in 9th grade, and go on from there. That one wants to be a math major, and has been learning calculus independently.

The other one cooks and, especially, bakes. On Friday she tempered some chocolate and piped it into pi symbols. So we have a little bowl of tasty chocolate pi symbols, and a few in the shape of 3.14, in the freezer so they can’t melt.

When we were talking about it, I told Naomi’s father I had a “complicated relationship with math.” I love the idea of it and some of the concepts, but I had some mighty bad math teachers over the years and could be lazy at things I couldn’t just breeze through by being more intelligent than average. Or I would simply not lift a finger at anything I objected to doing at the time. The oldest has that last and to some degree the other problem at times. The youngest has the lazy if it’s not easy problem. The middle learned to work and will go far, since she has the brains as well. She was the one who had to learn that because the early days of school were a struggle and she had to have help and training to handle it.

I went through elementary school ranging from good, really good, to hopeless at math. It can take me time, and I tend to need to grok things conceptually. In 3rd grade, we were expected to memorize multiplication tables. Evil! Lousy math teacher plus that, forget it. Now I can… it’s hard to describe… see and feel what the numbers do in multiples. I’d have been helped, perhaps, if someone had pointed out that multiplication is addition and division is subtraction. When the kids were in school, I could see as early as first grade them being prepared for concepts like that, sets, and solving for a missing number when you already know the answer.

I don’t remember much about jr high, except that it reinforced things we’d covered and introduced or continued things to prepare us for algebra. Algebra in 9th grade was hell. Even after I’ve been all the way through college, that teacher is in a small rogue’s gallery of Worst Teachers Ever. The other two that come to mind right away are a 7th grade science teacher who was rumored to like sleeping with the jr high girls (most likely untrue, as these things go, but there was smoke), and a college professor I had for Pascal (Computer Science 101), who mostly taught math. I sometimes rank as horrible a professor I had for Accounting II, Advance Accounting, Business Law II, Federal Taxation, and Auditing, but he wasn’t in their league. For him it was more a weirdness of teaching method, use of teaching college for indoctrination, and philosophical differences.

Then I hit 10th grade, had an amazing Geometry teacher, was one of the top two students in the class, and the teacher tried to get the school to accept the two of us belatedly in to the advanced math program. I had mixed feelings about that and was just as glad the answer was no, since I felt like an imposter. In 11th grade I got sick, which is another story. I missed 48 days of school that year, was not up to braining the way I’d been in 8th, 9th, and even 10th grades, and still did adequately in Algebra II with a teacher who was super nice but just adequate at teaching. She drove me home after school a few times, I forget how I came to need a ride, because she was already going that way.

In 12th grade I was even sicker. With high hopes, I took the Trig and Pre-Calc class that was with the awesome Geometry teacher. I promptly dropped it because I was sure I was an imposter and would never be able to handle the class or the overall workload. Also I expected it to end badly because I was still sick. I missed 78 days of school through March, after which I dropped out with the couple months left before graduation. All I needed for graduating was to pass English, in which as I recall I was running an A, and Gym, which as I recall I had blown off. Plus one year of school they accidentally didn’t schedule me for it and I never said a word, and by then the state had made passing four years of phys ed mandatory to graduate. They needed to support the state college system’s big business of pumping out gym teachers. I might have hung in there if I had both of those and wouldn’t have faced taking summer school for the hated Gym, of all things. I was already not going to get my vocational certificate, since they had strict attendance requirements. I was fed up with school and there was the GED option available. I just had to wait until after my class had formally graduated to be allowed to take it.

When I went to college three years later, I needed to start over. I ended up taking Algebra and then a trig/pre-calc class, which were fine and really good. But I was required to take two semesters of watered down Calculus, plus semesters of Stats and “Quantitative Methods for Management.” That last one, MA318 by course number, allegedly needed the others as prerequisites. It didn’t. Not even close. It was easy. Reasonably so, anyway. What happened to me with Calculus was I’d start taking it, feel overwhelmed, and drop the class without dropping the class, thereby taking an F. Take away classes like those and my GPA would be considerably higher. Eventually I muddled through it, then the second part. I muddled through Statistics, which made far less sense to me than it should have, but I didn’t want to be there or expend any effort. I don’t remember clearly whether I actually took that twice. I took it with my friend Zack’s favorite math professor, who also wrote the book. That sort of added pressure and made it weird, since there was a lot of tension with Zack, my being two years belatedly at the same college, and my making a pest of myself. This was his god among teachers. If I’d been in the right frame of mind, I would also have thought he was awesome. I can see it, objectively.

I was an accounting major, and people always wondered how in the world I could do that and “not like math.” Two different things! You’re using basic math with the numbers recorded and analyzed in accounting. You’re not using Calculus. Statistics is relevant if you’re doing auditing, which was an incredibly boring class I did well in by reading the entire textbook twice. It was probably the biggest teaching fail for the professor I had for five different classes.

I came out the other end hating math studies but loving math concepts. Weird, right?

Meanwhile, the wife got almost all the way through an engineering degree before she dropped out because she wasn’t good enough. She was at the top of the class. There were other things going on, but she has some of the same anxiety about not being good enough that I do. My father wouldn’t have responded to my getting an A- by wondering why I didn’t get a real A, but my family in various ways had some of the same impact. It happens. She loves calculus. Stats maybe not as much, but she knows vastly more about it than I do. Don’t let the English degree fool you. She’s STEM underneath it.

When the two of us got together, we had the theory that intelligent people should have kids, and we did. On some level, our kids are a long term science experiment in genetics. I suppose all kids are, but we were completely conscious of it. In a way it was dangerous, since we are both possibly on the spectrum ourselves, especially me. We could easily have had autistic kids shades of The Geek Syndrome. Instead they are variants between almost normal and a good bit aspie. It can be riding a tiger, having kids who are “smarter than us,” as the wife put it. They also have resources and opportunities we didn’t. We walk around now with the cumulative knowledge of humanity in our hands. I always wanted to own an encyclopedia so I could read all of it, not just the random volumes of cheapo versions that came from incomplete supermarket volume a week specials.

It takes more than genetics, though.

When I would drive around with the kids when they were young, I would entertain them in the car by having them  answer math questions, or by talking about concepts. That would go on at home, too, but in the car it was a captive audience and they loved it. I wanted none of them to be intimidated by math the way I was after about first grade. So I taught them the concepts of multiplication and division way ahead of time. I taught them about fractions and decimals. I taught them about things like pi. I taught them square and cubes and roots. I helped them be comfortable adding and subtracting larger numbers. All kinds of things like that, especially stuff that could be explained on a car ride, or thrown out as a challenge on a car ride. They knew about negative numbers long before I did. They knew about imaginary numbers, because that went with learning about roots and negatives.

One of the math teachers thought this was awesome when I told her what I’d done when they were younger. I know we talked about other concepts and ideas. It was kind of science and math the way the Kennedy kids might have gathered around and talked politics over dinner with old Joe. Except there’d also be philosophy, politics, history, and whatever. The math is what stands out and was the thing I pointedly used on car rides with the goal of making the comfortable in mind. I didn’t set out to create a kid who would be eager to major in math, though I am proud. It’s a great major and she’ll be following in distinguished footsteps. It fits with our having raised the kids to become adults, knowing there’s a world out there in which they will need to make a living and support themselves. Nobody ever gave me that foundation. Which is funny, because I was much more free range, and in some ways I was older than them at the same age. In others I was much younger.

So yeah. I had a complicated relationship with math. I wanted theirs to be uncomplicated, whether it was anything they loved or not. The oldest helps teach the advanced math class at the moment, by virtue of being the only one who really understands what they are doing. That’s just amazing.

July 7 September 11

It’s crazy the coincidences that happen. In the movie Melody, in the graveyard scene, she reads a gravestone. I always wondered whether it was real and they took advantage of it for the film, or whether it was simply a prop so it would say what it needed to say. It says:

Here lies my
beloved and beautiful
Ella Jane
wife and lifelong friend
thank you for 50 years of happiness
laid to rest
July 7, 1893

Henry James McDevott
gone to join his Ella Jane
September 11, 1893

Probably a prop, since they needed the details to match what the script would do, but perhaps they found the stone and planned around it. It’s really a crucial part of the film, given that it plants the idea that not only does he love her, as he has already been telling people, but will love her for many years and that being in love means being married. The rest of the movie would be completely different if the two of them didn’t decide they really must get married now.

At any rate, this was filmed in 1970 and released in 1971. The dates on the stone are the same as the London bombing of 7/7/2005, and of the notorious 9/11/2001.

Coincidences like it happen all the time. Look how many seemed to predict what happened to the World Trade Center. It’s still a bit wild, catching a detail like that, despite the fact that it has no actual significance.

Zack Songs

One, anyway, but since this super obscure one came to mind, perhaps I’ll cover more. Zack was my best friend during a formative age and one where music really came to the fore. It was the days of hanging out with a transistor radio on the tree house we built. The days when Boston radio meant WRKO… AM. What’s FM? That was still early days, relatively speaking. So the story of Zack is the story of music from 1973 and, mostly, the rest of the seventies, with maybe some that came before and was still a factor.

The obscure song that I associate with him is Sideshow, by Blue Magic. We would hear it on the radio and both liked it, maudlin and slow as it may have been, and as limited in meaning to us personally as it may have been. There’s not much danger of hearing it randomly and being reminded of Zack, since when was the last time anyone played this, right?

There are songs that are categorically connected to Zack. ELO in general, for instance. I believe I had heard and liked ELO, but his appreciation of it was infectious, and rightly so. That was one of the concerts I went to at Boston Garden, with Zack and some others. I purchased the tickets, so I’ll forever have the memory of his sister being angry at me for getting a set of seats that were partially obstructed by a support column. I wouldn’t have had any idea to check for that, but I also can’t really blame her. It was roomy enough, as I recall, that we were able to spread out a bit. That’s the first concert where I ever saw wireless instruments being played. No cords from guitars to amps for players to manage or trip on. That was the tour in support of the amazing Time album. I love when science fiction appears in music.

More specifically, the entire side of Out of the Blue known as Concerto for a Rainy Day, any and all four songs, remind me of Zack. Mr. Blue Sky has achieved lasting popularity and a place in the culture, but is just the final one of the four, in which we snap out of the depressive mood and all is right with the world and life again. It’s all the more meaningful in context.

The other general artist association, or a huge one like ELO anyway, is Olivia Newton-John. Less so the early days, more so songs like Physical, the songs from Xanadu, and Twist of Fate from the otherwise highly forgettable film Two of a Kind. I saw both of those films with Zack, though Grease I had seen with other friends and that’s much less strongly tied to Zack.

Possibly the biggest one of all is Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks. It came out at the right time and had the right tone. We had joy. We had fun. Another big one, which I don’t like the way I did at the time, is Bad, Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce. I got to make a fool of myself and we laughed a lot at my not being clear on the words.

The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News is a much later one. To this day, I find it hard to hear what is an awesome, catchy song. Zack and Joan used it for their wedding reception, kind of a theme. When we were young, I always looked forward to our respective weddings as wondrous, happy events. I’d be his best man. He’d be my best man. Okay, so I knew by the time we’d known each other a couple years or so that his cousin would be his best man, but hey. Anxiety makes that not necessarily an ideal role for me anyway. Bad enough the anxiety of taking the place of my late uncle in my cousin’s wedding to her first husband in 1988, as the only male relative who made it to Texas for the event.

By the time he was getting married, though, we had grown apart (that is, mostly I had been so annoying) to enough of a degree that I considered myself lucky to be invited, and would almost have been as happy not to go. I am never comfortable at weddings in the first place. It’s hardly surprising that when it was my turn we eloped, so to speak. Then my mother went and held what amounted to a surprise reception months later! The money people gifted us was great, but I still am embarrassed when I think about it. If we’d wanted that, we would have planned that. That’s my mother.

Someone was bothering me so much at the reception that my friend and unlikely old crush Lucy, who was how I’d met Joan so that Zack could meet Joan, stepped in and danced with me so the other person would be thwarted. I don’t dance. I didn’t want to dance with anyone. But better with Lucy, and I survived. And hey, she’s the only girl I ever had a crush on, loved, dated, or whatever, to have danced with me, unless I am having a memory lapse. Hey, it could happen. Age is insidious that way.

Wow, this got out of hand. It’s not that I wasn’t happy for them getting married, yada yada, but at the time I was miserable, and attending it was unpleasant for me. So the song became negative and happy at the same time.

Jeez, now I can’t think of more offhand. Yes I can! Besides Jesus Christ Superstar, which is more from Zack’s mother, but adheres to him by association. She loved that music and that was the main place I heard it. It has to be the Carl Anderson version for me. He was astonishing. I also always associated Queen’s You’re My Best Friend with Zack, even though it’s kind of a relationship song and not a friend song. Because shouldn’t that person be your actual best friend? Along the same lines, Thank You for Being a Friend was one of his songs before Golden Girls ever existed.

Finally, Zack was big on Asia when the band hit the scene. So Asia in general and Heat of the Moment specifically bring him to mind. If only because I particularly like that song and it’s the one I always hear.

If any more come to mind I can mention them over the course of time. This was a great excuse to link a variety of good songs. Most individuals don’t have so many connected to them in my mind. Or in whatever part of the brain it is that makes and retains those connections.

Okay, one more! Life is a Rock! We loved this back in 1974. The linked video is cool for having lyrics, though they go kind of fast. I don’t think I ever caught more than half the references.

Speaking of Looking Back

I’ve always loved the Chicago song Old Days. It evokes a wonderful sense of nostalgia, even though to me it was already slightly dated. I missed Howdy Doody being a thing. My older brother watched it as a kid, and I seem to recall my father having fond memories of it, despite having already been 14 when it first aired.

Listening to it today, I was thinking that the old days it described were not that old at the time. Turns out the song released in 1975. I’d have said it was slightly older than that, if I had to guess.

Not it’s 2019. so we are 44 years further removed from the old days of the old days. Isn’t that a kick? For us old people, anyway. Drive-in movies sure take me back! They might mean nothing to folks who are, say, 30. 40? Considering what a significant memory it is for me the first time I went to a sit down theater instead of a drive-in, and how rare that continued to be for a few more years, they fit. Now it’s a novelty.

Anyway, that was all. Just reflecting on the fact that it was possible to look back lovingly on the old days all the way back then, and now the point when the song came out is even older old days than it was about. From 1975, the equivalent was 1931, before my parents had been born.

Not Just The Usual Suspects

I recently talked about songs reminding us of people, or sometimes specific places or scenes from our lives. That usually will mean friends and family who are reasonably close to us, but not always.

My friend Frank, had a friend named Mike who played bass guitar. When I met Frank, four towns were part of the school district and we were in 9th grade together. He had moved to the town part of the way through 8th, but had never hit my radar before 9th. Had I not met him in 9th, or gotten to know him, really, I likely never would have. That would have changed my life so enormously that there would be no comparison. I would never have known many of the people I know, lived some of the places I lived, had perhaps even most of the jobs I’ve had, everything. I hate to say it, but that might overall have been for the better. If not, it would at least have been utterly different and I would never have known the difference. And had his surname not been close enough to mine to place us in the same homeroom, that would have been enough. He was in a class with me, but if that were all, he’d have just been a name I recognized.

I didn’t know Mike then. He also lived in the town Frank lived in, which was the one building its own high school, opened for our 10th grade year. Ella also lived in that town. Which, neither here nor there, had been where my paternal grandmother grew up, and where I have dim memories of visiting her parents when I was very, very little, down a dirt road, by a lake, in little more than a shack. For such a vague memory I didn’t realize the exact meaning of for decades, it sure became a fixture in my dreams over the years. A house based extremely loosely on that, in a spot based less loosely on that, has appeared as a dream setting many times. That should be its own posts. It’s funny, formative places and how they are in your dreams, alone or melded with others, while others, particularly newer ones, are not. I can only remember a single dream that took place in the house my father and stepmother owned from 1976 to just a couple years back, in which I actually lived twice, for a total of 11 years. I might have had some when I lived there either time, but I have always been more likely to have dreams based on my grandmother’s house or the house where I grew up. Which for some reason reminds me of my history over the years, but not for a long time, of having nightmares from which I’d wake up screaming “mom!” The impression of those I had was of being hurt by her somehow, as opposed to being upset that something bad happened to her, but I’m not clear.

One time I was with Frank, visiting Mike at his “hobbit house,” as Frank called it, upstairs in his bedroom, which did kind of fit that name. Mike played the well known bass line from The Chain by Fleetwood Mac over and over and over. Mike was crazy for Stevie Nicks, and named living with her for at least a year as one of his forthcoming goals in life. We were young. And hey, she’s only 13 years older than us! That’s how much older I am than the wife. That’s arguably more of a problem overall for us than not a problem, but it’s not completely absurd. She’s always been old for her age.

I will forever think of Mike when I hear The Chain, or even just the bass line from it. Mike did go on to be very nearly successful in a couple of bands. I have no idea what ever became of him. Frank had long since lost contact, until just before he died, when I believe he’d gotten an e-mail address.

Another song that will always remind me of Mike, and by association with Frank, is Babe, by Styx. Mike had dubbed it, and turned it into a running joke between the two of them and then me, “the messy song.” Why? The line “my heart is in your hands.” Messy! Still makes me laugh, and that’s what I think of when I hear the song, however pretty and romantic it may be.

There are girls I’ve had crushes on that were pretty intense, yet with no musical associations. Then there’s a girl named Tasha. She was certainly kind of cute, but her biggest claim to fame is after Carol had moved away between 4th and 5th grades, I looked around for Carol, didn’t recognize anyone as the girl I remembered, and wondered if it was Tasha because there was a modest resemblance. She was always super nice. Still is. But in 8th grade, when she happened to ride the same bus as me because fewer were needed to pick up the kids on the second session in 8th and 9th grades, I crushed on her a little on the bus. Especially since my crush on Mary came to an embarrassing end that fall, and nothing as intense replaced it that year. The crush I developed on Kerri was kind of artificial, in name of feeding the sensation I’d enjoyed of having a crush. So Tasha was in there somewhere, eyeing her on the bus, set to the music from the radio we had on the bus. I think one of the students had actually installed it with the driver’s consent. Somehow I came to associate her with Rainy Day People, by Gordon Lightfoot. Always a great song, and appropriate for a girl who always seemed pleasant and kind.

Now, I could list a large number of songs I associate with my old friend Zack, others I associate with Frank, and even multiple songs I associate with my late stepsister. I was asked not to write any online tributes or whatever for her when she died last April. Not sure if they thought I’d say something bad or if it was just a sensitive topic or if they’d seen the craziness I ranted here a few years before, but songs associated with her are a big part of my memories and I intend to write about that at some point, even if I can’t write a post that expresses how unexpectedly heartbroken I was, and how much I’d apparently loved her even though we became involuntary siblings at ages 10 and 12. Or perhaps because we were still young enough. Just the week before she had the stroke that killed her, I was thinking of her, wondering how she was doing, and regretting I might never actually see her at some point. It had already been over 20 years. Any annoyance she might have been in our younger years was far overshadowed by my pride in the adult she became, and my appreciation of how much she clearly adored my father. She would buy him Patriots tickets and fly up from Florida to go to a game with him. I am not supposed to write about that kind of thing, but one of these days I will talk about at least three songs that are, for me, her songs.