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.

Tea Time

I had worked out Melody timeline details a while back, but hadn’t given much thought to the times of day when things happened. I realized last night that we have a definitive time when the kids are released from school for the day. 3:30 PM. Or not long before 3:30, allowing time for Daniel and Ornshaw to get to their 3:30 punishment.

The other time reference I can think of is when Daniel and Ornshaw are out on the town after school, and a time check reveals it to be 5:10 PM, leaving Ornshaw fretting about needing to get home. Daniel gets a taxi and after a ride and some discussion, where Ornshaw explains why he was trying to get home, he heads home. He’s going to make his grandfather’s dinner. The discussion includes Daniel inviting him to tea and then they could go to a movie. So 5:10 plus a cab ride and change, and Daniel is just then contemplating it being tea time. Google tells me tea time is typically between 3:00 and 5:00.

So the day Daniel and Melody get together after school, after the punishment and drawing Daniel away from Ornshaw, ends with tea at her house. If we suppose it’s 3:45 when they are walking out of the school, that can give us an idea how long that interlude might have been. They walk and scamper at some length before sitting and talking and sharing an apple. Convenient symbolism, the apple. Both for growing up and to tie in to the song lyrics of First of May. We do see the sun is well into afternoon as they are arriving in the overgrown cemetery, arguably matching what might be near 4 PM. It’s good when you see them get filming details like that right, since things can get filmed in pieces across hours, days, and weeks.

Afterward they walk to her house and she insists he join them for tea, which is already in progress without her. Clearly nobody was concerned that she was not yet home, suggesting that it’s routine for her to stay late at school or to be free range for an extended time after school. The difference is showing up with a boyfriend. So what is it, 5:00 or so? I found it interesting what they seemed to be eating, which was more like lunch or supper, to me, than how I might picture tea.

Continuing this the next day, I have looked up the concept of tea and of meals in the UK. It turns out that tea can range from the image I have of high tea in the after noon to the actual evening meal I’d generally call supper. There might be tea at, say, 5:00 and then a small supper at, say, 8:00, or tea might actually be supper. None of which affects much the question of what time the Perkins family is having tea that day.

The scene where The ladies of the Perkins family are eating something for supper later in the evening on a previous day would suggest that they do have both tea and supper. It might depend to some degree on whether her father is home, since he seems to work long and erratic hours, even when he’s not in the pubs. Makes sense, if he’s a truck driver as I saw online, even though if it ever said in the movie I missed it. Just earlier I saw that Ornshaw’s first name, Tom, is said in the film, but it’s easy to miss. I sure did, multiple times. Now I’ll have to listen for it.

What else can I say about the time of day questions or answers in the movie? If school gets out close to 3;30 PM, that is the time when the elementary school gets out here. In our case, that is up through fifth grade, or sixth year. Classes actually start about 8:50 AM for elementary, with buses picking kids up about 8:10, give or take a bit. Kids who walk aren’t supposed to arrive there before 8:30 or so. Obviously it’s neither the US nor the present day, so who knows. It is also not the equivalent of elementary so much as middle/high school, where they are the youngest kids, in sixth year. That you see limited numbers of older kids is an artifact of it being a film and what’s needed to make it look close enough, as far as employing extras. But then, so could things like what time school lets out. Here the middle school starts classes nearly an hour before elementary, and high school even earlier.

Finally, if I can even remember my original point, I think what I set out to note was what the clues about time of day tells us about when things happen and who is expected where when. Melody is nominally expected home about 5:00 or so for tea, is free range before then, and they don’t panic if she doesn’t get home even then. Daniel probably has a similar thing going on, based only on his invitation for Ornshaw to have tea when it is already approaching 5:30. It’s possible tea is sometimes the evening meal for them, but at least sometimes they may eat again later instead or in addition. That gives the kids perhaps an hour and a half or so after school before tea.

Tea is also implied as happening sometime after the dance, but that’s on a Saturday and we don’t really know what time of day it was. Melody sits at her desk/makeup table, still in her pink dress after the dance, messing with makeup until her mother calls her to tea and says the tea kippers will be cold, taking Melody out of her reverie. I had always interpreted that scene as being in the bathroom, but having caught the bedroom Melody goes in earlier as if it’s hers, even though it looks like it could belong to an adult from what little we see, we see that table and mirror, exactly as in the makeup scene.

With all the gaps in telling the story, there’s a lot of inference and filling in we’re left to do ourselves. Which works, but can leave you wondering well how, when, what if, was that enough time, and such.

Mrs. Ginger

Not really a point to this. I’m just still struck by seeing one of the most attractive women I have ever seen arrive at my friend’s mother’s house for a family and friends party on Sunday. The occasion was my friend being out from Las Vegas and having a birthday this week.

If I were young, this is one of those times when just seeing the girl would have left me smitten. It would have been all over. She drew my eye before she even made it in the door. Because I am old and have learned a thing or two, and I am not my brother, I didn’t stare, but it wasn’t easy. I was going to say I’ve never had a crush on a ginger, but there was a minor one in college. Genetics being what they are, marrying one would probably have given me kids with red hair, or some variant between that and blond, with less pronounced brown. At different times, even the kids I have with a dark haired woman have exhibited substantial amounts of red, and one of them is still a dirty shade of blond. Hey, English, Scottish, Irish, and, for them but not me, Swedish.

The woman in question, whose relationship to the family holding the party is unknown to me, is married and has a couple young kids. She’s old enough to start to wrinkle and, well show a ginger’s sensitivity to sun. I’d guess somewhere not a lot to either side of 40. And that reminds me of what I wanted to post about. Which makes her technically young for me, and old for what I’d normally see as super attractive.

In a book, a series of books, that I never wrote, the heroine was a redhead. As if I were Heinlein or something. Notwithstanding my not having run into any I got interested in, she was matched with a hero based on an ideal of me. If I wrote the thing exactly as planned, these days it would sound like I was basing the hero on Musk or Bezos, and various villains on the current political class and Bin Laden/ISIS. It’d need some updating. Internet didn’t even exist then. I was working on what little I did of it at the point when I was hanging out and flirting with Vera, who worked with my sister, and being her date to her sister’s wedding. Funny thing is that the bits I wrote and the bits I planned or imagined are in my head just the way books I read would be, or scenes from a  movie I watched would be.

Mrs. Ginger could easily be the heroine of that series, several years after the beginning of it. She looked the part. No wonder that was what I’d imagined.

Something I Haven’t Figured Out

Somewhere in my childhood, I irrevocably internalized women being in charge. Weird thing, right? In a culture that allegedly stomps all over women? #YouToo? Probably not. I don’t perceive it as all that common. What I cannot fathom is how that happened to me. What was the influence? Or who?

I always had a fear of authority figures, which I mentioned in another post. Or maybe not always, but from a very young age, origins unknown. I’d figure that was my father, for lack of anything better. It’s not like he yelled or spanked me all the time, though, or even seemed menacing for the most part. There was no denying he was in charge, at least when he was around. I really remember one spanking, and I never got over feeling traumatized by it, but it seems a bit much to have drawn an overarching fear of authority figures from that. I’ll get back to this, probably. I mention it because it seems related, in that I came to see females as authority figures based entirely on gender.

In my house were my mother and my older sister. My mother really couldn’t be the source. My sister and I were extremely close until she hit puberty, at which point I didn’t understand why she’d turned into a raving bitch. Which didn’t last, but I never quite looked at her the same after the burst of unpleasantness. We weren’t the closest in age, but she noted recently that the two of us were the most alike. Expanding to include my stepsisters, later, my late stepsister and I were the two closest in age. It is possible I picked up some of it from my sister, but it would most likely have been one of multiple sources.

My paternal grandmother lived in the same house. We saw a lot of my maternal grandmother. Both could be dominant. Neither grandfather was exactly a rug, though, to the extent any of this might have been learned by watching deference that went all the way into pure domination. Examples of strong women, not tyrannical women, in other words. Same with aunts. I had one aunt who could be offputtingly harsh. The others were merely strong women. None would have shown me to be really timid of women. Aunts by marriage are a similar case. One uncle was married to a woman I never much liked, but I also didn’t see that much of her in my life. Maybe more than I remember, since they lived in our house when we first moved in. My parents took over payments and ownership of the house from my grandparents when they could no longer afford it. That situation became one of the roots of my parents ultimately divorcing, ironically leaving my mother with the house she never wanted.

Every teacher until sixth grade was female, and for the first few years of school, so was the principal. That could have been a factor, to whatever extent the buildup to my perception of women as authority figures happened after I hit school age. I loved my first grade teacher, but there was an incident where she smacked me on the hand. It wasn’t undeserved, but it was shocking and I never got over it. I couldn’t bring myself to go visit her when I graduated high school. While that was partly because I didn’t actually graduate per se, and I had serious issues with school and teachers at that point, that incident lurked under it and made me not want to see her. Plus that was a lot of years. Maybe she didn’t really keep some of my work all that time to give me when I graduated and came back to see her. I was her class superstar.

The other teachers varied. I was apathetic about second, like third but hated the math teacher in third, loved fourth and had a crush on the math teacher in fourth, and disliked fifth, especially when we had math, but loved the ELA teacher in fifth. I just don’t know.

My very first best friend was a girl. Then I had a best friend who was a year older than me through basically fourth and fifth grades. She was a strong, somewhat dominant person, but nothing that ought to have harshed me. There was a weird incident I don’t remember in detail from fourth grade, where I got hit by a fifth grade girl at recess who was swinging a purse as a weapon. It was quite unpleasant and there was an inquisition. They were attacking boys their age that way, and I got mistaken. Then I felt bad about anyone getting in trouble!

I don’t think any of my female cousins were a negative factor. There were a couple of them I was particularly close with at times.

When I was 11, my father met my stepmother, so along with her I met my stepsisters. They got married when I was 12 and it was kind of a shock because my father’s house was abruptly their house. There was no more deference from my stepmother. She was in charge, period, and brooked no dissent. I dissented at times. My stepsisters kind of mirrored that, as you might expect. Generally we got along, though, at least for a while, and it was the older of the two who was more abrasive to me. The thing is, I believe all of this was after it had, at least in large part, already settled in my perception that women were in charge period and don’t mess with them dude, or disagree lightly if you knew what was good for you. They were scary.

I don’t know why. I don’t know if it was cumulative or if there was some forgotten thing, maybe at an especially young age, that brought this on or formed the nucleus of it. It baffles me, but I also can’t get past it. It makes girls scarier from a crush and dating perspective. It affects relationships, such as they are. It affects my perception of what I can expect, and of when I have or don’t have approval.

To some degree it’s universal with me, male or female, to assume I suck unless I am told in no uncertain terms and regularly that I do not suck. That maybe ties into perfectionism and anxiety, but it means that if I am dealing with a female of interest, there can be no ambiguity or uncertainty. To me, no means no forever and ever amen. Conversely, yes means not really, I am not serious unless I beat you over the head and shoulders with a yes club until you see some sense. A little frown, a look that seems too serious, it means you hate me and I am done.

Oddly enough, this seems to have applied more to personal relationships than to managerial relationships. It does mean I take female managers seriously and always have. Some have been great and some not, but I’d never start out assuming they are not competent. That takes time and evidence.

I think the very worst thing it did, besides contributing to my not dating to speak of and being scared away too easily, is dominate my marriage. It’s all I can do not to laugh when the wife complains about being stuck, having no say in things, etc. I’ve mentioned how I almost hung up and backed off entirely simply from her tone of voice the first time I called, and by then she was essentially a sure thing already. Even if she was no Daphne Zuniga. Or Nicollette Sheridan. She sounded so harsh. It was frightening.

I always deferred to her completely. Right from the decision she made that we ought to get married, not that I was opposed, but I might not have concluded it at that point left to my own devices. I redacted some grumbling here, so I hope it still makes sense.. It has been incredibly hard to say no more recently, but I have gotten better. Usually it’s passive things, though. Again with trimming things. I am still working on being my own person. We might never have gone awry had I not deferred so completely in the early days. I’m not sure I knew how to do otherwise.

For all that, I have had plenty of female friends. It has often seemed easier than having male friends, though male friends have tended to be closer friends overall. There have been a few who have had at or near “best friend” status as an adult. One was Daphne, even though I fell for her at our very first encounter, when I was in tenth and she in ninth grade. Another was Joan, who married Zach and before that dated Perry. Sophie, a graphic designer I worked with on volunteer projects, introduced to me by Frank. And of course Naomi and Sally would number among them. I don’t really make new friends anymore. The wife is my best friend, even though the marriage is basically an economic and child rearing arrangement long since and there was never much romance. We get along marvelously and see things the same in most ways. I find it hard to imagine a marriage in which that wasn’t reasonably the case, even if you could also have a more traditionally (if it is traditional and not a fictional thing we’re led to believe) emotional and physical romance.

This whole thing might be related to my pedestal problem. Putting someone on a pedestal requires extreme deference. If most girls go on a pedestal, not just crushes, with it a matter of degree, then that would explain how I would see them all as in charge and my wants or opinions as unimportant or worse.

But I don’t know. Thus the title of the post. I like to think I have gotten better. Clearly I didn’t get better when I stopped the serial crush addiction, though, since the wife was a good while subsequent to that. I think she got extra deference because she was weirdly willing to sleep with me, and was completely forward and unambiguous about it. That it didn’t do a good job of lasting once we were married just makes us, near as I’ve ever been able to tell, normal. But there’s the problem of deference again. Bad enough not to date because I wasn’t being asked and wouldn’t do the asking, generally speaking. My waiting for her to be overtly interested got old, or so I’ve been told. Being married didn’t cure me of having been deeply conditioned to think it was wrong for me to want or seek sex, that I was unworthy of it and too repulsive even if it was a myth that girls had no interest in that. Which is demonstrably the case. Universal lack of interest in sex on their part has always been demonstrably untrue. But the conditioning! At least I know where much of that part came from, even if the more general belief in the dominance of women has no apparent source.

Milk Men

When does the joke “same mother, different milkman” stop making any sense to people?

This was sparked by my realization that one of the earliest scenes in Melody, pyrotechnic breakfast at the Latimer house, involved bottles of milk that had been delivered, presumably by a milkman. It also featured what, to modern, American eyes, is a tiny refrigerator. That would make the small bottles, delivered at regular intervals, sensible. It’s pure background, just the way it was at the time, one more way it’s historic archive captured on film.

The year that was released, 1971, would have been still firmly during the timeframe when we had a milkman where I grew up. I always felt bad for them, though. We were on a long dirt road, the only house a third of a mile in, and it could get extremely bumpy. It’s amazing my father was ever successful running a business that was a tenth or so of a mile past us on the same street, up to around the same time Melody was released. I am forbidden to mention what happened to the business, though I might have mentioned it here anyway in passing, but after that it operated out of another building, toward the other side of town, and was later in a new building, all the way on the other side of town. I digress. There had to have been a lot of broken bottles for our benefit, and a lot of time wasted driving extra slowly. My father had gone to school with one of the kids in the family that owned the dairy, and had actually suggested to her that they should start an ice cream stand. They did, and it’s locally renowned to this day.

We didn’t get tiny bottles, but half gallon ones, made of glass and returned for cleaning and reuse. But we didn’t have that “green thing” back in my day. Just economics. It seems odd to me now that milk would be left sitting out beside our steps for hours, sometimes, before coming in and going in the fridge, but it was apparently never a problem.

Eventually the dairy eliminated our town from the area their deliveries covered. That aspect of their business was getting overwhelmed by ice cream anyway. I seem to recall we figured the problems of delivering to us were a factor, but we are always me-centric. It couldn’t have been too much longer, since the road eventually was paved. On the other hand, when it was paved, it got some nasty speed bumps. I don’t remember them delivering after it was paved, and that was probably not later than 1973.

My youngest brother, who delights in using the “different milkman” phrase to describe himself, was born in 1971, appropriately enough. The milkman thing reminds me of a great grandfather I never met. He was an electrician, but he installed electricity in a lot of houses in and around his town in the early days of electric service, when the men would be off at work. Apparently we will never know just how many relatives we have from the town where my grandmother grew up. But that’s another story.

Marriage

It’s super ironic that the wife and I got married in the first place. When she was a blogger and I was a blogger and we met as a result, along the way she wrote a post about marriage. I was the only one who seemed to understand and agree with it. It’s been so long, I don’t remember exactly how she put it. I don’t recall it being all that clear, but I’d had the same thoughts. It’s long gone from the interwebs.

I’ll revisit the topic. I believe I have done so over the years, but it’s been a long time and much has happened over the years.

Marriage as we know it is a legal shortcut that helps you get things that governments can give you, or recognize, or steal from you differently. How rich is it, then, that there was such a push to make same sex marriage legal? You’re petitioning the government to let you have the same tax advantages as traditional marriages. You’re petitioning the government to grant you social security survivor benefits and such. You’re petitioning the government to save you legal costs of making arrangements that would have relatively the same results as automatic inheritance or next of kin rights and duties. You can give anyone your power of attorney, living will, or your possessions in event of your death. Marriage makes it easy. Heck, it even makes adopting a new surname or hyphenated surname easy, without getting a legal name change, which you certainly could do if you were committed and wanted to have the same name and have children with the same name as both parents.

That’s basically it. That’s why people seek it. Anything else is ritual, as I know was explored in Moonrise Kingdom and, less overtly, Melody. Not that the power and emotion of that is to be dismissed lightly, but anyone could “marry” you with no legal weight attached if that were all it was. In fact, if marriage has its origins mainly as a religious ceremony, it has origins as a ritual, a rite that might not have anything to do with government, but gives you the recognition of the church if you or enough others around you care about that. If a religion purports to have power over your reproduction, calling it a sin or an evil if not sanctioned, marriage is a powerful rite indeed. It’s always about power, about control. That’s how some people roll if we let them and don’t teach them well or worse, if they are beyond teaching. Religion and government fit naturally together, when they are not instead competing.

Freedom of association is one of those things that simply exists. Putting marriage in a box of how it must be is a restriction of that freedom.

In reality, there is no reason any person or people cannot form a bond with any one or more others, in something that looks a bit like marriage or like something we might not recognize, to achieve the same things marriage can achieve apart from the legal automation above, in practical and emotional spheres.

My favorite example is Heninlein’s line marriage concept. It’s a form of polygamy, which is not even a little bit wrong. It’s stable, has economic strength, is long lasting, and provides a wonderful framework for raising children.

Sex is just a small part of marriage, and it doesn’t even require sex. It just creates a socially acceptable construct for that to take place, historically. Lots of marriages turn entirely sexless, or mostly sexless, but they don’t end. I might not have gotten married if I’d expected that to happen. On the other hand, my reaction was “that’s it, that’s what all the fuss is about?” Perhaps I should have taken that to mean I was about to marry the wrong person and needed to have gotten around more, rather than being mystified that this was the driving force of civilization and culture. And not that it meant I wanted to sit out the last ten years, either. When it’s bad it’s good or something? But who is to say that you have to restrict yourself to a marital partner for that? The local priest? Please. Maybe one of the other spouses would work out well for that. Heh.

Even without tax benefits, marriage is about economic stability and mutual support. It’s about a stable environment for children. It’s beyond hard to raise children alone. I wanted children and got them, with a partner who is absolutely on the same page when it comes to raising kids. We knew that ahead of time. It might be as important, no more important, to know where you stand on that before marrying. That would be hard for 11 year olds to have a grasp of, even if they knew that eventually their relationship would involve sex. The thing is, if you’re stepping outside the marriage for sex, it potentially puts kids outside the marriage, and you need to be willing to deal with that possibility. They are as much yours as any you had with spouse(s). If nobody minds any of this, that makes it a de facto nontraditional marriage anyway, even if you’re officially in the traditional government construct of two spouses.

When I got married, part of the impetus was that I was having trouble affording the apartment and bills by myself, and maintaining housekeeping by myself, though at least it was just me to pick up after. I was thinking I’d have a partner on the home front, a booster encouraging me to go get ‘em at the business, and an economic contributor to help even things and make paying everything easier. Two people cost less than double. The reality was gaining a dependent and then kids when I was barely covering myself, but the concept still stands, and kicked in later. That was almost eleven years ago, less than a year before the ten years ago thing. A group marriage might give more potential dependents, but it also gives more hands. Something of a tribe, more than a traditional man and wife. I’ve known people you could call “heterosexual life mates” who have some of the benefits of a marriage, economically, without there ever being sex or a legal marriage, same sex or not. You can’t always know those two women who have lived together for many years are lesbians, or that one or both wouldn’t be thrilled to have their way with a man. In ways that matter, they are family.

How would I explain marriage to Melody and Daniel? Well, it might be time for them to know about sex in more than a vague way, if they don’t already. I would tell them it’s more about mutual support, about a stable environment, all that. I would tell them that having romantic love for each other is wonderful, and is how marriages often start, but that there is more to it than that, and those feelings might not survive, or remain so strong. Just having those feelings and wanting to be together all the time is not reason to be married, even if it were legal at that age. But marriage is a legal vehicle anyway. People can be together without ever being married, and be perfectly happy. Perhaps even happier. Live, be together as much as you can, continue growing up, and see what happens in a few years.

Politically, things went the wrong direction. Instead of forcing government to recognize more marriages, which has slippery slope potential for those who hate the idea of things like legally sanctioned polygamy, we should have been backing the government out of marriage. Why should it be licensed? Why should it have special treatment?

Well, I can answer that last one. You give special treatment to what you encourage. Encouraging people to make more people and be able to raise them in a stable way is what a government does to subjects when it wants to ensure more subjects without simply importing and, ideally, integrating them. If we aren’t subjects, why treat us as such? The government here is us, not a king.

Marriage shouldn’t exist as a legal vehicle controlled by government. People should be able to have any arrangement they want that is marriage-like or family-like without permission, so long as nobody is harmed. Actual harm, not pretend harm. That doesn’t mean there can’t be religious rites, or private purveyors of registration or contractual arrangements that are ready made for common scenarios. It’s just an odd thing to do with government, even if it goes back millennia.

Visiting Naomi

My friend Naomi is on this side of the country for a few days, so I’m going to visit at her mother’s house this afternoon, along with whoever else they’ve managed to get there. It’s about an hour of driving, but beats going all the way to Las Vegas.

We worked together in tech support for a couple years, ending just over 20 years ago. Wow! I’d forgotten it had been 20 years. Some of us ended up friends and hung out a lot together, waning over the years as people moved away or got preoccupied.

She was notable as my final serial crush. It’s not that she did anything special to break me, or to break the chain, though she did remind me just enough of Daphne to be uncomfortable. In her case, there wasn’t really ever the slightest chance. It was like dealing with a completely inert substance. She was aware enough of my attraction that she avoided being alone with me during a certain stretch of time, as if I’d ever have tried anything untoward.

At this point, we see each other on Facebook and once every year or two she is out this way and, with rare exceptions, there is a get-together. Normally it’s about June and she is at a beach house owned by her mother and aunts. I take the kids and some of our other friends, in diminishing numbers, go hang out there for food and on the beach. The kids loved it. It’s been a few years. I think she skipped last year entirely. the year before she was out for her father’s wedding. I was supposed to go to the party/cookout they had out in the central part of the state, similar distance to where I’m going today. I was bringing the kids. The car died and I ended up not going. I wasn’t thinking I could just go myself or with a single kid, but I was also worried about the truck. Plus I was feeling… not like seeing a bunch of people. Which could describe me today, but I’m fighting it. Today only one of the kids wanted to go for a party with Middle Eastern food, so it defaulted to the truck. The big issue is weather. It borders on my not wanting to drive there, especially since it’ll be snow and ice at the destination after it’s long since rain here. But I’d rather not miss it again.

Which is arguably weird, because in some ways we don’t have that much to say to each other beyond shared history and maybe some geek culture. It makes it more interesting if either or both of the remaining possible people from the old gang go, but one of them she has had trouble getting any response from for a couple years. That’s a case of someone drifting into her own bubble despite, in my case, not being far away. I can find Sally hard to take because she is all politics all the time and she has crazy notions. One year we got together with Naomi at her mother’s house and the politics of Naomi’s mother and stepfather were on display, much closer to mine, making Sally uncomfortable. The discomfort of being always surrounded by people who see things more or less your way, to the point where someone who sees things otherwise might seem like a unicorn to you. Not possible! But then you see a herd of them, real and not at all crazy. Sally is not on social media, so I am not in touch with her that way. She believes the right will use the data gathered by social media or an online presence to round up and incinerate people like her, because she seems to be in a mirror universe. But I digress.

Anyway, unless weather gets bad enough, I’ll get to see Naomi for the first time in like three years. That’ll be cool, even if it makes me nervous to hobnob with other people. I just remembered that Naomi was born the same year as the wife, who is 13 years my junior. Funny that in, say, 1997, that seems like one of the obstacles with Naomi, but several years later it wasn’t an obstacle to marrying the wife. In spirit, the wife has always been much older than Naomi.

One of these days I’ll write about all the crushes. Or all the ones I can remember. Just yesterday I remembered a couple of more minor ones from college. One of them had the unusual name of Ethel (not a pseudonym in this case), which one simply didn’t encounter in girls in their early twenties in the mid to late eighties. And doesn’t now, for that matter. That’s more like the name of a great aunt. When thinking that through a while back, I found big gaps in my memory where there were none I could think of. I think what happened then is I dwelled again on prior ones.

But I digress. This is an awfully long way to note what I’m planning today and why I won’t end up typing a bunch of other inane posts because I am occupied.

Orville and Connections I Make

I watched the latest episode of The Orville a while ago. I have to go to bed too early to watch it Thursday night, so it’s a Friday morning ritual once I am home. As I told the wife, not every episode is going to be in the best science fiction ever aired on television that last week was, but it was good, and unexpected. For instance, I knew River Tam there had to be involved in the destruction somehow, but I wondered if she could destroy ships with her brain or what else the mystery mechanism might be.

I was also telling the wife that they not only have an Admiral Halsey, but also an Admiral Perry. Heinz Doofenshmirtz would be sad. Everybody knows the name Ted Danson, but the wife didn’t recognize Victor Garber, who plays Halsey. She never watched Alias at all, not even a little as I did. Other than that, to me his most notable role was as one of the friends in Sleepless In Seattle, one of the me movies I named. I forgot While You Were Sleeping when I wrote that post. Those two movies sound antithetical to each other, but I lean toward loving both of them.

Scrolling all the way down, I found Garber’s first role was as Jesus in Godspell, released in March 1973. Doesn’t look at all like the distinguished older gentleman we’ve long seen him as in more recent decades. There’s a video of the song Day By Day as used in the film, and you can see him there. However, the song was on the charts before then.

We sang Day By Day in chorus in 6th grade, which was the 1972-1973 school year. 99% Sure it was 6th, not 5th, and it’d be logical all around, plus well timed with respect to the movie, notwithstanding the song and stage production weren’t new. I’ve long had it on MP3 and just can’t help singing along with it, despite not being religious. It makes me happy and takes me back.

So there you go. From Orville to Godspell and chorus at the twilight of elementary school. It’s the fundamental interconnectedness of all things at work.

Now I Remember

I was going to write about something I’d been thinking of before and during work, which, having not noted anywhere, I promptly forgot. I’d been thinking about how I’d write a movie of an alternate timeline of my life – or just the alternate timeline – to have a scenario that would be Melodyesque. Not a rewrite, and still a product of days gone by, but a “how it should have ended” sort of thing.

I could see it happening with Carol, though holding true to the original timing we’d be on the younger side. I could see it happening with Paula, which would be complicated by her being a year younger and eased by her brother being a friend.

Interesting exercise, and it depends on how some things are changed. Carol’s only real friend was relatively near to where I lived, so that might factor in. It wasn’t until a year or two later that I perceived that friend as being an unpleasant person who hated me, and I didn’t yet consider her father to be evil.

Unlike Daniel, I would never have thought to tell a friend I had a crush on a girl. Further, during part of this time, my best friend was a girl, Kara, who was a year older than me. Still is! Funny how that works. Changing that might help.

The environment was extremely rural. Suburban at best, but I grew up in the middle of the woods, 1/3 of a mile down a dirt road from the main road and the nearest houses. The major intersection in town featured a little liquor store/variety store with a gas pump. Walmart would be unheard of for a long time to come. There was nothing like bus service. You couldn’t hop a train and go to the seaside.

Options for being together would have been things like hanging out at one of our homes, walking or hanging out in the woods, riding bikes around, or hanging out at one of the available beaches at the lake in town. There was an ice cream place it would have been possible to bike to, and not a lot else.

I’ll have to think about this and come back to the topic to see if I can create a timeline/set of events, or an outline, for each of them. I’m getting sick and need to be up extra early, so I need to eat something, knock myself out, and try to sleep an abnormally long time. Actually, looks like the longest possible sleep I could get would be 7.5 hours if I hustle and sleep promptly and the whole time. For me that’d be amazing, but it doesn’t sound like it right now.

Song Associations

I think it’s common for us to associate songs with individuals. Sometimes I wonder if I am more prone to it than average. Same thing with places and times. In some cases, I can remember where I was when I first hear a song, or if it wasn’t the first time, for some reason there is a strong memory around some early time when I heard a particular song.

The very first song I ever heard that was by the Beatles and that I grasped was a Beatles song at a young age was All My Loving. I find it hard not to sing along, and it invokes a mental image of the bedroom I shared with my older brother. Even then, I loved the words, the rhymes, the story: “close your eyes and I’ll kiss you, tomorrow I’ll miss you.” “While I’m away, I’ll write home every day.”

Now, it peaked in the US in April 1964, which seems a bit too early for me to remember so well. It was probably later, but I was also pretty young. We moved to the house when I was almost exactly 2 1/2 years old, and I have no identifiable memories of having lived in the previous house, even though I have memories of a trip to Prince Edward Island the summer before, 2-3 months before we moved. I have memories of shopping for the bunk beds we got for me and my brother, who is 6 years and about 3 months older than me. So he’d have been about 9 years and 9 months plus when we moved. I could swear I have memories of sleeping in the living room initially. The implication is that my memories “woke up” right about the time we’d moved in. All My Loving peaked on the US charts about six months after we moved into that house. Am I remembering it from when I was 3? I seriously doubt it, though by the time I was 6 I was absolutely and unambiguously aware of who the Beatles were and of other music, so who knows. It could be such a strong association in part because it was about as early as my recognition of popular music and culture goes back, I had been in the house and in the room not that long, and it’s associated with my brother and his love of the music at 10.

I associate MacArthur Park with my brother, as he was associated with my first hearing and loving the song, which presumably he also liked. Richard Harris recorded that in 1968, so the youngest I could have been was 7. It peaked at number 2 in June that year. I also remember This Guy’s In Love With You, the number 1 that beat it, so perhaps I remember them all the way back to then.

However, a song can have more than one association, and one can be much more pronounced than the other. For me, MacArthur Park will always bring memories of Ella. An arrangement of MacArthur Park was used by and was essentially the theme song of the drum and bugle corps she was in as a member of the color guard. Any relationship would have been unlikely to be long term, and might not have gotten past a date or few perhaps a first kiss with someone more appropriate than the one with Daphne. At an age more appropriate, too. But it was a memorable time and experience, and she was a memorable person who will live in my memory the rest of my life, and that song will always bring her to mind. I can’t say that she’ll still be the one after all the loves of my life, but the words of the song are also appropriate to the association.

I could do a whole series of posts with song associations. I associate Daisy a Day by Jud Strunk with my grandfather, as he used to sing that to my grandmother. I associate Light My Fire with the first time I ever heard it, in a car with my brother and cousins, while my aunt shopped at the the PX at Otis. Some simply take me back to one year or another in chorus, from fifth through eighth grades, if I remember right. I believe the same year they started offering to teach instruments was the year we started being able to participate in chorus, and I believe that was fifth. I don’t have a song for my big jr high school crush, which seems odd. Or I’m forgetting. Rainy Day people is associated with a girl from my town who was a minor crush, and who I sometimes thought might have been the mystery girl in 4th grade. That came from hearing it on the bus in jr high during the point when I had an eye on her. Still the One by Orleans is associated with Paula, whose brother Paul was a friend of mine in late elementary school. Her brother and I were in 6th and she was in 5th when I noticed her. That may have been before this incident, but the big memory of her was when I was in a department store in another town, nowhere I’d expect to see people I knew, and there was that entire family. I watched them but could not bring myself to go up and say hi. I was smitten, and therefore I was even more terrified than I would have been with normal shyness. It wasn’t something that latched on and wouldn’t let go, yet it was memorable and didn’t end there. I would later work with her, after not seeing her for almost thirty years, and become closer friends than I ever was with her brother. There was a wee bit of flirting around and almost but not quite anything happening. Bear in mind that things were particularly on the rocks with me and the wife then, and even now it’s a marriage in legal name only. Technically I can do whatever with whoever and she’d be cheering me on. Thus the mention I believe I made in a post at some point about my still having no idea how to date, etc., and her trying to tell me I should have no trouble attracting anyone, while I can’t imagine attracting anyone. The association of that song actually came from work, but the words and sentiment hearkened back to 6th grade, 8th grade, and 12th grade, and to what might have been. I could write a movie that’d be based on if things had happened differently with her, just as I could with the scenario of things happening with Carol, the first crush. Who has no song.

I have rambled on enough. This was supposed to be a much more concise post. Ha!

When the Pedestal Goes Away

Original title was Shower Thoughts, but since that’s the name of a site or whatever, I figured I’d go with the other one. It is, however, where I had the train of thoughts.

I ended up thinking about what it must be like to be a celebrity and to need or want to protect your safety and privacy. Rebecca Schaeffer came to mind. It must be especially weird when you aren’t a big name, but are nonetheless a name to some.

Melody was essentially a commercial flop, as delightful and well made as it is, and was saved from complete obscurity and financial ruin for the production company’s first film by runaway success and a favorable distribution deal in Japan. So the film was always huge in Japan and a few minor markets, so Tracy Hyde, not already a big name like Mark Lester and Jack Wild, was an idol regionally. She went on to do some other roles through her twenties, but nothing huge. Melody went on to become, increasingly to this day, a cult classic.

Thinking of her life was a trigger to this. You’ve been moderately famous. You’re not hugely sought after, but in some circles there’s still demand. You were paid fairly modest amounts for the roles you did. Now you have to cope with staying private, the possibility of being stalked, the possibility of being more in demand by fans than you’d prefer. Perhaps paid appearances now and then are a boon, but it’s not the same as having been on a series that gets you steady employment as a convention guest for decades. You have a life.

That made me think of Keanu Reeves, who is an amazing human being, quietly humble, charitable, and an ordinary guy. He reportedly simply goes ahead and rubs shoulders with everyone, riding the subway and so forth. Reading about him makes you want to be more like him. He’s just a guy, who just happens to act for a living. Perhaps we ought to see actors more like that.

All of this, which took far less time to think about in the quick shower before work than it takes to write and expand slightly upon, reminded me of my revelation of the past few years (it’s been around five or so since the provocation and probably between 3 and 4 or so since I worked this out) that I have tended to put people on pedestals in my life. I make them, in my mind, something they can’t ever be. I did this to my friend Zack, but never to my friend Frank. Two very different people met at two different times. If anything, I was the one on Frank’s pedestal, but not the same problematic way.

Being seen by me as falling off the pedestal, or not having belonged there in the first place, was messy. The mess was made and can never be unmade, but I made the breakthrough of recognizing that Frank Zack is and always was just a guy. A good guy. A guy with strengths and foibles like any of us. Which gives me an inverse thought I should address, if not in this post. (Typed the wrong name, though the same applies. Or did, since Frank died several years ago.)

I generally did the same with girls. Those I crushed on, anyway. But if I saw things I didn’t like, that already created cognitive dissonance. Anyway, the more the pedestal, the more difficult for me to see her as approachable and act accordingly. If the wasn’t a pedestal, or it was countered too greatly, I’d go the other way, and be talking myself out of it. I recognized the pedestal problem with girls before I ever recognized the harm it had done to that friendship over the decades, and before I ever saw Zack once and for all as a mere mortal. And figured out that being a mere mortal in not a bad thing!

This also made me think about the way I have always looked at authority figures, which includes teachers/professors and bosses. I have no idea how I developed it. It has to go back to an extremely young age or be somehow inherent to me. I always had a fear of authority figures. I was the last kid who would ever have gotten in trouble with the police. I had no dealings with them. Yet they terrified me.

With bosses, I would either be afraid of them or, if I saw them as stupid or incompetent, not take them seriously at all. Neither thing works very well. Usually they are just people doing a job, and have strengths and weaknesses. Usually they are not in fact out to get you, and do not want you to fail. That’s the opposite of what they’d be after. Duh. Arguably this also intersected unhealthily with my perfectionism problem. Forget bosses. I never thought did a good enough job at anything. Except sometimes I knew I was great, and it would be times like that when I’d know a boss was stupid for not realizing it. Then I’d not take them seriously, rather than being afraid of them. Seldom have I ever realized later that I wasn’t as good as I thought, in those cases. Usually, though, I assume I am awful unless regularly and vehemently told otherwise. I’ve gotten better about this. Assuming you don’t take the state of my employment as an indication that, no, I have not, which could be. If you’re awful, who would hire you, and why would you go trying to get a job you can do better than most people that you’re sure you can’t possibly do as well as they’d expect? Why go there? So maybe not.

But I digress. I know I always do, but these are topics neither thought of in the shower nor contemplated for inclusion when I thought of writing this.

I think my point was to compare my realization about my friends just being people, and girls just being people even if they give me elusive butterflies, to the fact that celebrities are just people. People who sometimes need or want to cope with the potential problem of other people not seeing them as such. Of course, fame can be a rush. I’ve had a minor form of it in the past. It really was kind of a kick. So maybe that’s the price of that rush, but you’re still just people. If you were a kid when the fame started, maybe it’s nothing you ever sought or could have known the price of before you started paying.

Storytelling Part 3

Might as well get around to finishing what I started in Part 1 and Part 2, and finish spoiling the whole 48 year old Melody film for the almost everybody who’s never seen it. Of course, you can see it if you want, using the link discussed here.

When I left off, we had gone through the vignettes of Daniel falling for Melody and then attempting to get her notice, summed up in the great use of To Love Somebody during athletics/field day. This also ends with one of those things that never gets explained or expanded upon, but is pretty dramatic, when Daniel faints after winning the race with visions of Melody going through his head. We don’t know how long had passed between the dance and field day, and we don’t know how much time passes between field day and the next school day shown. Except we do, because we are about to have firm evidence that the timeline is one week from the time he sees her in ballet class to the day they first hang out together.

I could write about how short that seems to me for the sort of scenario the kids are involved in, and for certain things to have been said and done. I went through something like it, less successfully, and we’re talking months, not a week. But that might be another post. I also learned just when filming took place, besides that it was in 1970 and happened to include May, so Tracy Hyde had birthday cake on the set. It was May to August, which supports my observation about the state of vegetation in some scenes. Since filming is hard, it makes sense to have taken that long. But not longer, allowing editing and production time before it started being released in March 1971. You figure the horrible dinner party scene took an entire day of filming, and that was just one little scene to show more about how awful the adults in the Latimer family were. The scene in the headmaster’s office took a lot of takes because Mark Lester was too unflappable to express anger without being provoked sufficiently. Which might explain some of Tracy Hyde’s acting in that scene, depending on how things were spliced. But I digress.

He loves her. She seems to reciprocate. Just one thing remains. It’s another school day, and we see Daniel and Ornshaw both get in trouble with the beastly Latin teacher for not being able to present what was supposed to have been “prepared ‘omework.” We never see the kids doing homework in the film, or worrying about it, but they probably had at least as much as my kids tend to have. That’s vastly more than the almost none I had at their ages, but the British schools seem to have been different from my experience.

After school the boys go to the teacher’s office to face his wrath. Ornshaw has the trick of stuffing a towel down his pants to soften the blow while he pretends it hurts. He has Daniel do the same, but Daniel gets caught and is actually harmed after Ornshaw has left the room. Nice bit of acting, the look on the teacher’s face when he notices the towel and pulls it out. This whole thing ties into a couple of later scenes.

When Ornshaw comes out, he sees Melody hanging around one floor below, waiting. He knows darn well why she is there and tries to encourage her to move along. There’s been animosity between them and of course Daniel is his so don’t come between them please. Too late!

Daniel comes out, sees her, and she smiles at him. I haven’t written about how much the apparent age or maturity of the kids varies through the movie, but in this part she looks particularly old and mature. At any given time, the school blazers tend to contribute to that. I suspect that the filming was long enough that growth was a factor, so they look taller or shorter at points during the film. My youngest is very nearly the exact age as Mark Lester during filming. He’s growing like a weed, and any second will become the tallest of the three kids, even versus the exceptionally tall one who just turned 13. She’s just taller than I was when I turned 13, but then I grew 4 inches in the five months after I turned 13, getting most of the way to my final height. The youngest is that height almost a year and a half sooner. But I digress. I risk digressing into my son having crushed on a girl who played cello, which made him more enthusiastic about his decision to play violin. I think he got over that, but there’s an example of a crush at that age.

There’s not really talking in any of this, except by Ornshaw. He doesn’t want to lose Daniel, yet he helps by telling him not to let her see him cry, then taking the towel from Daniel so he doesn’t have to carry it. They start down the stairs.

There’s Melody, planted inexorably at the foot of the flight of stairs, in a pose that could be described as forward. It’s completely confident and unambiguous. The boys stop. Ornshaw looks at Daniel. They continue and Ornshaw resumes trying to get Melody to toddle off. When they get to the bottom, she just looks at Daniel, saying nothing, meaning everything. Ornshaw talks, trying to persuade Daniel to go do things with him that afternoon. Anything! Just to be with his friend. It’s a great way of showing just how heartbreaking this will be for Ornshaw.

Daniel walks to Melody,a s she walks away, stops and looks back. They walk off together while Ornshaw pleads. Then they run to the doorway where they’ll go down the final flight of stairs.

We see them round a corner and come down an aisle between seats that would be used for assembly, heading to the door at their theme, First of May, starts to play. The next part is brilliant visual storytelling with no audible dialogue.

We see Daniel try to carry her bag for her, to her amusement, and then she takes it back. They walk close, obviously a pair. When they walk through an arched stretch in the schoolyard, they hold hands, then let go when people might see them.

Oh heck. You can see this sequence without ever watching the whole film. You just need the video of First of May with cemetery scene left in.

They talk as they walk along, but we don’t know what they say. They make their way to an old cemetery and end up chasing around like puppies for a bit, playfully. Then they are walking together again, holding hands as they head into another section of cemetery. Ultimately it’s her leading him to a spot. The music fades and they are sitting, talking.

She says that her friend Muriel says that he’s been going around telling people he loves her, which she doesn’t mind, but why not tell her if he has to tell someone. She’s always the last to know. That last has just the right plaintive tone. Apparently Daniel has been busier than we’ve seen. Perhaps this was why they showed him being impetuous enough to light his dad’s paper on fire, or forthright enough to tell the director of the Boy’s Brigade that he didn’t know what he was doing there, it was his mother’s idea. You need to have enough innocent boldness, or just boldness, to do something like going around telling everyone you love some girl in school.

Sharing the apple is a cute touch. Not sure I’d ever have done that. Germs, you know. It fits the song. Some of the later cover art they did features the apple in a way that sums up the themes of the film. I have never figured out whether there was a point to her tearing up a handful of dead grass or vegetation when he hands her the apple.

She does most of the talking.He’s very quiet, and we’ve already seen that she’s more social, talkative, and can be a smartass when expressing herself. To the degree she reminds me of Ella, a similarity is her being surrounded by groups of other girls who were her friends at school or from the drum and bugle corps. In 9th grade, we read The Merchant of Venice in English, which was one of the classes we shared. She was kind of behind me, so I couldn’t stare at her there as I did in the horrible algebra class. I loved that book! I used to describe the friends around Ella as “Portia’s train,” the way that sort of retinue was described in the book.

She observes it’s nice there, and that her mom tells her not to go there but she’s not frightened. Nothing to be frightened of when you have the boy with green ears and so forth. LOL. Looking for something to say, since he’s about as much help as I’d have been around that age, she looks around and then reads a nearby gravestone. The name of the woman on it is Ella Jane, appropriately. They’d been married 50 years of happiness and then he died just two months later. This is crucial, since this sparks the idea of marriage. Storytelling prop.

I wonder if that’s a real gravestone or if it was a prop they produced for the purpose of the story. I’ve seen video of people walking through the very cemetery decades later, but nothing where someone found the exact spot.

Anyway, she observes “he only lasted two months after she died.” Finally speaking a full sentence, Daniel says “he must have loved her very much.” This is pretty much the most famous dialogue in the entire film.

She asks him how long is fifty years. He gives the reply in number of school terms, which shows how young they are and how limited their worldview is. It’s also kind of funny.

She asks “will you love me that long,” turning to look at him with an adorable smile. He nods. She says “I don’t think you will.” Wise observation, but hey, it can happen.

He replies “of course, I’ve loved you a whole week already, haven’t I?” He smiles and looks almost tongue in cheek. He laughs slightly and they both smile. This is when we first hear him say he loves her. It gives us the timeline from the day he sees her to now, locking everything through that day into place. I know life can move fast at that age, but it seems like too little time for the strength of the friendship with Ornshaw, and for the antics between Daniel and Melody to have happened and come to fruition. It works great for the dialogue, though! This is the scene that Tracy and Mark reenacted on at least one of their reunions decades later. The acting here is great, and so is the way things are conveyed.

First of May reprise kicks in as they continue eating the apple and looking at each other, and we segue into them walking along a road again. I’d love to be able to read lips to know what they are saying when they stop and try to duck through the fence to jaywalk. They pause and are foiled. Not sure, but I assume that is trying to show them being kids and not always angels. Then they are walking through the yard in front of her building. A little girl runs up to her and they pause for a kind moment between her and the kid. Maybe that means to show them as not little any more, by comparison. They reach her door and they have an exchange. It may be that he has seen him as walking her home, and is reticent, while she is inviting him for tea. She opens the door and, in one of my favorite, funny touches, she reaches back out the door and pulls him in by his tie. Inside the door, she looks amused, as well she should. Even though it was different sets and might have been widely separate days of filming, it’s seamless. Her mother and granny look up from the table and at the doorway, surprised. Melody announces “he’s come for tea.” This brooks no dissent.

We get more of her family dynamic when they are at tea. We see her being daddy’s girl, since he is home. We see tension between him and her mother, if not outright fighting as we saw with Daniel’s parents. Her father is obviously someone who can’t do with silences, so he has to find something to talk about, a story to tell. Melody gives him a number of “if looks could kill” looks as he goes along. Ultimately, though, it’s a nice interlude. It cements things and caps off the day.

At no time do we ever see Daniel’s parents meet or be aware of her. Interesting.

This is the end of certainty about the timeline of events. The vignettes used in telling the story until now could have been separated substantially from each other in time, if not for the confirmation on this day that it all took place over a week. To me that timetable is a borderline anomaly, or creates some. But it’s a story. You make decisions and trade-offs.

And so we have no idea whether the next day is the next day or sometime later. The only evidence we have that it’s not the next day, beside it seeming rather abrupt, is when Melody’s father refers to Daniel having been to tea multiple times. That suggests a longer build up once he is her boyfriend, and more opportunity to reach the point of planning that day together. Also that would give more time for them to be so attached that marriage seems reasonable to them, at least in their perception of it. They don’t always seem innocent enough to be that innocent.

The next scene is a morning at school, attendance, and they aren’t there. We see they are on a train. They hop off, looking sort of furtive even though by then who’s going to catch them. There are a lot of questions about how they managed to sneak away like this. They are dressed for a day of fun. That means their school clothes, blazers, satchels… those are all at home, should someone notice. They had to get out the door that way, with what they were carrying for the day out, not for school. But that’s mechanics that are outside showing the story. We can wonder and imagine, but really it just is. Hand wave.

We see them on amusement park rides. During some of this the some Give Your Best plays, as it did when Daniel hung out for an afternoon with Ornshaw. We see them eating cotton candy and buying ice cream cones. We see them walking along the beach in bare feet, spying and then jumping on trampolines. Then they watch a wee kiddie pageant, which she is totally into and he tolerates because he is with her. We see them sitting on a sheltered bench, which is still there. You could go sit where they sat, if you wanted to seek it out. Mostly it’s companionable silence, which is a great thing to be able to have with someone, but they converse and some of it is lame. It doesn’t entirely fit with them having hung out and talked on other days.

If that tells a story, it tells how limited their world is. They talk about what they would be doing in school right now if they were there, and what subjects they like. He pretends he doesn’t like history so much after all, since she hates it. She loves geography. Can’t blame her there. That actually factors later, as some things do throughout the film.

When the rain is over, we see them on the beach, building a sand castle and talking idly. Her dad doesn’t like the beach and usually stays home, “in the pubs, mostly.” She’s aware of his drinking problem, if it’s a problem.  That reaches back to the beginning when she had to go find him at the pub. That pub is still there, operating under the same name. His family rides in the car, but they don’t generally get out. The adults have a row and don’t talk until they get home. We get some of their view of adults firsthand, besides the over the top adult acting intended to convey how kids see them. He goes down and steps into the water with a container, brings some water back, and then she wonders why it all went away. That’s particularly lame, because a six year old would probably understand that water poured onto sand is going to dissipate through it. Do they really want us to see the kids as being that young and ignorant?

While patting sand in place, one of their hands pats onto the other one’s hand and they are sort of… startled. I don’t know why, given all the hand holding they did, even if it was just the one day prior and this is the very next day. Still, that is the impetus for him asking if they should get married. She thinks maybe someday, perhaps, which is a smart answer. They talk about how old might you have to be before you can get married. As old as our parents? He worries if they wait they might be “old miseries.” Great expression! The wife is an old misery. LOL. Too much social media. I never would have said LOL in blog posts 15 years ago. Most adults they know are old miseries. Melody stands and looks out across the water, getting sandy hands in her hair and wistfully saying to the world at large “I don’t know. I really don’t know…”

That segues into a scene where the two of them pop up from behind a screened enclosure, now wearing their swim suits, clothes hung on the enclosure. Initially holding hands, they run down to the water, step in, then step out because it’s COLD. you hear her say “I’m done!” while pointing to herself. Then she goes back in, which he is supposed to do together with her. He’s a little slow about it. She kicks water to splash him, then he splashes her, and fun ensues. Considering he stepped into the water shortly before this, if it was cold he should have noticed. A little glitch there. That scene ends with a musical thud. We see nothing of when and how they get home, the rest of their day, the reaction at home if any of the parents figured out what they had done, nothing. This is another absence of telling what isn’t essential to be told. I’d expect to see more of it in a book. A film or show would trim things exactly this way.

It goes straight to the two of them in school clothes, insides the door of the headmaster’s office, unambiguously the next day. This scene required many takes, at least the part where Daniel gets angry and yells at the headmaster. We don’t see anything about how they wound up being sent or called there. We don’t see whether there is or will be interaction between school and parents.

I should note, as I may have before, that if kids that age skip school here, the school calls home to see if the parents know the kid is home. A parent is supposed to call to tell the school the kid will be out. In elementary it’s a special number where you leave voicemail. In middle school it’s just calling the office. I don’t know if anyone goes to even that length in high school. The schools seem to be good at treating the kids as being older and more responsible as the get older in age and year. In my day, there was nothing like that. There was no hyperactive fear of kidnapping, which is what actually drives the safe to school line concept. We were simply expected to take an excuse note from a parent the next day and give it to the office.

Anyway, the headmaster is funny. He’s actually quite gentle with them, and I saw Mrs. Latimer’s hand in that. since she is buddies with him and he’d want to keep in her good graces. The range of expressions from Melody during part of this is amusing, since I am not sure that’s what we ought to be seeing. I can’t help wondering what the director was telling them during this. When the headmaster stands behind the two of them and puts a hand each on one of their shoulders, she looks at his hands and has a “get that off me you creep” look, an amused look, a worried or alarmed look, an amused look, and so forth as he speaks.

When Daniels tells him they know what their priorities are: they want to get married, she whips her head to the side and looks at him like WTF. I mean, we never saw them actually come right out and decide with each other that yes, this was absolutely what they wanted to do. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t. I figure the look was more “OMG why are you telling him that.” Then, when asked if she’s offered him her hand, she says she doesn’t know, she’s not sure what it all means. That sure is a switch from their vehemence. Daniel gets mad because he thinks it funny, but it’s not and he’s treating them like they’re stupid. The headmaster tells them that’s it, “the matter is finished.” Then the real fun starts.

They go back to their classrooms. Weird thing is that if they got sent to the office while other kids went to class, they should be entering a class in progress. Instead, they are entering classes where the kids await arrival of the teacher. She gets tormented, even by some of her closest friends. He gets tormented worse, and ends up in a fight on the floor with Ornshaw. Latin teacher breaks it up. Daniel is nursing his bloody nose while Ornshaw apologizes from the next desk, feeling terrible.

After school, in one of the most iconic scenes, we see Daniel and Melody sitting in the rain in his cemetery. Her head is on his shoulder and his arm is around her neck. His other hand is holding his satchel above them, in a vain attempt to keep them from getting completely soaked. We don’t know what he is saying, but he is talking furiously to her. That is the one clue I figure we have that says the next day’s events take place the actual next day, rather than at some later date. We don’t need words, anyway. This tells the tale of what the day has been like for them and his strength in trying to make her feel better.

Then she is home, hair getting dried, sitting at the table while her father does most of the talking to her and her mother interjects from behind. Granny lurks around back there, and we see some good facial acting on her part. They know about her wanting to get married and are telling her people just don’t get married at her age. In this whole scene, she seems pretty young, whereas there are so many times she seems older than she is. They do a poor job of explaining. She doesn’t accept it. If the plans for what in film terms appears to be tomorrow have already been made, it is moot anyway. As I said, I felt for her father here. Tracy Hyde does an excellent job being pathetic. It calls back to her love of geography. She likes being with Daniel more. Daniel is home, in bed, thinking. We see nothing of his parents.

Final bit. Flash to what we could take to be the very next day. Complete turnaround from the classmates. Daniel’s mother is frantic because he left a note that they were eloping. First we have known that she has any clue about the girl or the depth of things, and she’s a mess. It’s ridiculous. Headmaster takes her call, assures her things are fine, he’d seen them in class. He’ll go check. When he does, he learns one of the classes never came back from morning break. The one kid there is the kid who’s been trying to make a homemade bomb the whole time. Turns out their classes went to the railroad arches for a wedding.

Headmaster gathers up the teachers to go break it up. As they are driving off, Mrs. Latimer drives up in her fancy car and ends up following. Nothing to worry about. They get to the barren land by the rails and break up to try to flush out the kids. Meanwhile, Stacey, the bomb kid, has run off to warn them the teachers are coming. Obviously his planned role. The headmaster is so oblivious, he doesn’t notice Stacey had a bomb right on the desk when he walked in and asked where the others were.

We see the kids gathered and Ornshaw starting the ceremony. The kids laugh and he tells them it’s not funny, it’s serious. Rhoda is the maid of honor, even though during most of the movie you might think Peggy or Muriel were closer friends. I didn’t identify the boy who seems to be the best man. I like Rhoda. The actress, Lesley Roach, was in a lot of stuff before Melody, then disappeared after 1976. We had a local family named Roach when I was a kid.

It’s funny when Ornshaw tries to read the whole thing, fumbles it, and basically leaves it as taking the respective other to be their husband and wife. “Will you?” “I will.” “Yeah, I thought you might.” same with Melody, blah blah obey blah. “I will.” She has kind of a blushing bride look, and seems amused. Maybe Tracy was trying to keep a straight face and almost not managing it. This also had to be funny if they shot the scene earlier in filming than they did some of what built up to it. The more extras involved, the earlier they shot it. These were more the core group, but they still might have done this sooner and then completed what had only the main characters afterward.

Before Ornshaw can say man and wife, years before this was a thing in Princess Bride, Stacey gets them the warning and they scatter. The main wedding party goes one way. The rest go the other to run interference. At this point it’s a revolt. It was just the thing with Daniel and Melody that provided the impetus. This is where Teach Your Children plays. I’ve seen it described as out of place or inappropriate. I don’t think so, for the scene and the ending the team decided on. I might have come up with a different ending, though I can’t say what.

The kids fight back with the teachers, who are outnumbered. Eventually it’s down to Ornshaw, Melody and Daniel, running from the evil Latin teacher. They lose him and Ornshaw has the newlyweds hop on a hand trolley that we saw in a much earlier scene of a test of one of the explosives.

In the meantime, Stacey has lit his latest bomb attempt and tossed it into the back of Mrs. Latimer’s car. It works spectacularly. He is amazed and overjoyed. That stops everything in its tracks, including, briefly, the running that Ornshaw and the newlyweds are doing, while they and the Latin teacher look back to see what the noise had been. The headmaster and teachers run away. Mrs. Latimer looks at her burning car in dismay, looking completely lost. More than she had during the brawl.

That’s it. Teachers are a mess and not looking good. Kids are not going to be able to escape being in trouble. Mrs. Latimer is going to have to explain the car to her husband and might want to reexamine her life. The honeymoon is presumably going to be short because where can they go, what can they do? They’re 11. It’s not a real marriage. They can’t support themselves. They’re carrying nothing but the clothes on their backs. But all of that is neither here nor there. What happens next. What people face. Those aren’t part of this story. Leave it to the imagination. Leave it as an ending that is too absurd for reality so why ask those questions. It was fun and told a tale that was meant to be told.

I don’t think I accomplished with this set of posts what I thought I was setting out to do. It ended up being more of a breakdown of the movie, much as people on YouTube break movies or show episodes down and look at what happened and some of the finer points in videos. I still say that watching this and seeing how the story was conveyed helped inspire and make me think, with respect to my old story that I should complete eventually. The lesson for me is it being OK to leave gaps and leave unanswered details the reader doesn’t have to know. There’s also a lesson in tying elements from earlier to later, and how to introduce people and places.

It’s late and I should already be in bed, since alarm time is 2:15 AM. I either have to leave this a draft or publish it but then proofread it when I get home later in the morning. Probably the latter.

Musta Been The Wrong Time

This is the post I was planning when I thought of ubiquitous photos. I often think about the times it feels like I have been in the right place, but at the wrong time. Your life and future can be what you make them if you set out to make the relevant changes assiduously enough, but hey, a little help here? Heh.

Here’s an example. I am fascinated by bushcrafting. Alone is a favorite show, failings or not. I watch a lot of YouTube videos by people out doing this and showing some how-to stuff. Even some of the videos that are simply “watch while I camp in the woods and yammer at the camera” are enjoyable. In my head, I am one of them. If I were in a SHTF situation, lost in the woods, whatever, I’d be better of than most people, worse off than some.

My regret is that when I was young, even all the way through my teens, I was in the perfect position to do this stuff. Some of the people on YouTube are doing this on their own land, or in woods right around their homes. I had hundreds of acres around me that were my domain. Even after a mobile home park for the elderly was built around us, it was a short walk to get into the most of the woods, largely the swampier, more lowland parts, that remained. While there was a great deal of concern for forest fires, which had been more common in the area then and had in fact happened in our woods, I did sometimes have a “camp fire” and knew how not to set the woods ablaze. It was just surreptitious because were not supposed to “play with matches,” and fear of the fire (smoke) observation towers that were in the area at the time had been drilled into me.

I never camped out in the woods, and wouldn’t have known how to make a proper shelter. Along the way I heard of lean-to shelters, but didn’t know what I was doing when i tried to build one. My older brother talked about starting fire by “rubbing sticks together,” but I never knew how you might actually due that until YouTube. Ditto for flint and steel. We actually had a huge supply of flint out beyond our yard. They were round stones of flint, or chert, that had been painted on the outside and discarded in a pile by the prior owner of the land, for whom my grandfather had worked. He had been in the munitions business, among others, so there were interesting artifacts around.

There was plenty of water, and even springs if you knew where to look. There was not the wildlife that exists these days. I could have tried building various types of shelters. I could have slept out in them and been a reasonable walk from my house if needed. It would have been wonderful. If he’d been interested and his mother wouldn’t have minded, my old friend and I could even have done that on his land in an adjacent town. It would have worked for the purpose. Closest we got was sleeping in the tree hut we’d built, or under the stars in a field with some other people.

Another example is when I had an amazing apartment, but a complete lack of girls I could meet to bring there. LOL. Not that I had the audacity, but in college I had the opportunity and it even kind of went as well as it was ever going to. But then I lived at my father’s house, rather than in my own place not far from the college. In retrospect, and ignoring for the moment some other factors, smartest thing I could have done was find a way to go to college while making enough money to keep that apartment. It was big enough to have had roommates and was near enough the college to have been acceptable for that to some prospects. If I could have kept it without roommates, it would have been an amazing bachelor pad. It would have been a place I could have had college friends gather for study sessions or projects, or just to hang out. Of course, I should arguably have kept my full time job and just started taking classes on the side, rather than diving in as  I did. I was much bolder then. I was always sure things would be fine. It took all these years of things being too often not fine to leave me timid in ways that have nothing to do with girls. It’s a whole different thing, for instance, holding onto a job no matter what happens, because you’re terrified of being out of work. Be it by quitting cold with nothing to replace it as you’ve done in the past, or because maybe the replacement thing won’t work out or will create other problems.

Anyway, i have often been sure I would have gotten out of my college experience something that I didn’t if I had been in my own place.

I could come up with more examples than those two, but this is the general idea. In things big and small, it seems like circumstances never line up. A bit like when my family could have bought as much of the land around us as we wanted for $400 an acre, but a year of income was $2000 or so. It’s been decades since the value of that land hit $100,000 an acre. While it may not have increased as dramatically since then, I think that was something like a 24,900% increase in, say, 30 years.

On My Way To Write One Post…

I thought of another, which relates a bit to the post on changing plots with modern technology.  I was looking at the header picture on AV, which is actually one of several that load randomly, and thinking I ought to change it eventually.

There are essentially no pictures of my childhood.

I mean, somewhere my family has some with us kids, and in some no doubt are backgrounds that include inside the houses or even outside. I’ve seen a couple pictures of the outside of the house before my time.

Now, though, we all have cameras, right on our phones and other devices. We are not reliant on film developing. Long term storage can get interesting and relies on the continuation of high tech civilization and/or some of it having been put to paper, but physical storage was also a problem. I, personally, have two devices in active use that can take photos and videos, and more that are retired or not actively used, but could be employed. I can take all the pictures I want, including over and over of the same basic shot in an effort to get one that’s particularly good.

If now were then, I’d have pictures of all the woods, swamp and bogs around my house. I’d have pictures of our dogs and chickens. I’d have pictures of my father’s business, the areas around those locations, my family, my grandparents when all were alive, my old friend Zack’s house and woods, the treehouse we built and the process of doing so… everything.

Or perhaps not. You have to think of taking pictures. How many people think “that building could be gone in thirty years but I’ll have a picture,” or similar long term awareness of the possibility that a throwaway scene might be special. How many people seek avidly to protect older photos from being lost or destroyed? Would I have taken pictures of how things were in my town? How the main intersection looked at different times? That might be an “if I knew what I know now” thing.

But… With pictures being taken so ubiquitously, the chances of that form of memory preservation are better.

Many Worlds

Looking at this article on parallel universes reminded me of thoughts I have had from time to time. It also reminded me of the theory that some things like deja vu and dreams that then happen are associated with quantum leakage from relatively proximate alternate timelines. That is, for there to be infinite parallel universes in which what could happen did happen, there are points of departure, just as you’d see in alternate history fiction. The more recently and/or less dramatically the alternate diverges from the one we experience, the “closer” it is. We might recognize it and be unable to detect a difference unless it affected us very personally.

The story I started a couple years back involves alternate timelines and, between them, time travel. Since it is based in part on people and places close to me, in some ways it was easier. In others it’s still hard, because writing is work, and it’s personal so I want even more for it to be perfect.

But that’s not where I was going with this. When I think what if this, what if that, presumably it has happened, or will happen if time flows slower there, in a parallel realm. All the regrets. All the wishes. All the OMG what if THAT had happened. In an endless multiverse, they all did or will, and are all playing out in many ways. They range from I took the day off work yesterday to I was never born. They range from an elementary crush being the childhood sweetheart I went on to marry young, to I never met anyone and remained single. And that’s just a tiny range of examples that are me-centric, let alone all the things that involve others but change things for me. My brother might never have met his first wife. I would never have met my old best friend. He would never have met his wife as a result. He would never have broken his back while working for me shoveling driveways. He would then have graduated with his high school class. I was due to have a best friend like him, so it would have been someone else. The prime candidate had a sister I was crushing on at that point. Maybe she’d be the one. Or at least I’d have known her well then, instead of getting to know her better than I ever knew him, decades later.

Anything could happen.

It also shows, if we are bold enough to take the lesson, that at any point going forward, we can throw the switch on which variant we occupy. Do that thing. Don’t do that thing. Everything changes, somewhat. Bigger things or cumulative things, bigger changes. Maybe it’s not for the better. Maybe it is. You build your reality. I know this. I’m still hopeless at embracing and acting on it. It’s a weakness.

My Ornshaw

Well, I was going to do a post with that title, specifically about my late friend, call him Frank even though he’s too dead to be offended by anything I might say, and ways he, and his interaction with me, remind me of Ornshaw. And Jack Wild.

In some ways, though, my old friend Zack could be written about similarly. In other ways, I was Ornshaw to Zack. Frank was rather introverted to be as overtly cheeky, though he was pretty good with snide or intelligent but not appreciated observations or questions. Zack wasn’t introverted and could be as cheeky as any of us ever got. I, especially as I age, have that cheekier side, though in many ways I am very much Daniel, but less extroverted or mischievous. Especially when I was young. It ends up rather relative.

Zack gets the “girl disrupts friendship” award the most. That really never happened with Frank. However, the friend-love as portrayed in Melody was more between me and Zack, mainly in that direction, and less so with me and Frank. I never got a girlfriend. Certainly not when there was a strong bond between me and Zack. Frank didn’t get a girlfriend at a young enough age to matter, or one that was a strong enough emotional bond.

Zack eventually got a first girlfriend in the form of the same Daphne I have mentioned as being so trying for me in other posts. She recently apologized to me for not realizing how I felt about her, which seems odd because I was completely unambiguous. I have never been that clear or overt. I seem to try harder in hopeless cases and less hard if chances are better. Because success bad? While wanting no part of me, she wanted or even lusted after my friends in inverse proportion to their interest in her.

So she dated Zack. He got to make out a lot but that was the extent of it. I was miffed and it maybe somewhat took him away from me at the same time she was insulting me with her actions. Jealous, even, though somewhere along the line my interest had waned enough that it was probably more insulted than jealous. I also thought he could do better, and he did, later. The one Daphne really wanted was Frank, who she did eventually “date,” if you know what I mean. He had no actual interest, but at the time she was available and nobody else was. Sad.

Zack ended up with Joan, who had dated Perry up to around the time he went off to college. It was funny, since the first time they met, she didn’t like him. I inadvertently triggered the whole thing. Later I helped ensure they stayed together. But I lost him to her in at least the way Ornshaw lost Daniel to Melody. Or at least it added impetus to something that might have already been underway. In that, I represent Ornshaw. I was also perhaps the freer spirit when we first met at 11. Except at the same time Zack would say outrageous things I would never have dared, even between us. He got me used to using swears, even though I’d certainly heard them from an earlier best friend, Kara, and from the world at large. She once told me about having looked up the words to see if they were in the big dictionary at school when she was in sixth grade and I was in fifth. No, it may have been fifth and fourth, come to think of it.

On another note, I think Ornshaw needs more credit for intelligence and sense. He’s obviously street smart. He’s poor/lower class, part of the class elements shown in the film. It seems he’s an orphan, if he is in the care of his grandfather, or perhaps more accurately, caring for his grandfather.

He’s a troublemaker and smartass, sure. He’s also either older than his grade level, or more mature. His having girly magazine pictures behind his bible in scripture class is a nice comparison to Daniel’s innocence in having gotten a girly magazine from a boy at school so he knows what they look like to try his hand at painting nudes. He’s completely matter of fact about it when his mother finds what he is doing, bored and on an artistic exploration.

What was Wellington doing in Spain in the first place? That’s a good question! I had to look it up. It has a valid answer, which might have been outside the scope of what the teacher wanted to discuss in history that day. Nice these days to have the internet. I never thought to wonder what Talavera was, even though I saw it referenced heavily in a series I like.  In that case, it’s the name of a ship, presumably named after the battle. To dismiss Ornshaw out of hand? Rude.

Questioning the merit of learning Latin? Not unreasonable. It would be easy to come up with reasons to study Latin and convey them, but why not just add some extra beatings to the schedule? Rude.

Ornshaw is also wiser than his ostensible age about girls and what people might be up to. He knows what Melody wants when her finds her waiting after the Latin punishment, and assiduously tries to get her to go away. He doesn’t want to lose Daniel to her, and at the same time advises Daniel not to cry in front of her and disposes of the towel for him. He eventually buy into the importance of the marriage ceremony and that it’s serious, not funny, when the other kids in the rebellion are still laughing despite knowing why they are gather together. He knows to try to be offputting to Melody in the cafeteria, and has jumped in to guide his friend away from either any further embarrassment, or falling into her clutches then and there. He’s smart enough to know that while Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and he has it bad that way, Daniel also has it good in a way. He knows that school won’t be forever. Those kinds of observations and bits of wisdom really remind me of Frank.

If I take Frank to be my Ornshaw, it fits with Jack Wild. Drinking contributed to Jack’s death, even though he’d kicked it long since. Smoking, too, which is where they don’t overlap. Frank died at 52 of cumulative effects of drinking. I somehow missed that he was an alcoholic until the last maybe dozen years of his life. That’s a surprisingly good job of hiding it.

Oh well, This ended up long, but it covered two posts that I’d been thinking of writing.

My Melody Girls

I could go on at length about crushes and such, but Melody relates most closely to three over the years, from younger than the kids in the movie to college age. Call them Carol, Ella, and Maddie.

Carol was fourth grade. I don’t actually remember that moment I first noticed and fell for her, and I was so young that I didn’t realize just what I was experiencing. There was a gulf between how it would be just a year later and how it was then. It was my first crush that wasn’t a teacher crush, and I will never forget how it felt. It would be the closest to how Daniel felt when he first noticed Melody in her ballet class. (I will never understand why some people refer to ballet class as “the school disco” when writing about the movie.)

Funny thing is there was dancing involved with Carol, whose name I didn’t know until several years ago. Someone posted a class picture from elementary school and there she was, exactly as I remembered, long, dark hair and what it turns out was a homemade skirt. Since that was a picture someone I was Facebook friends with from having gone to the same schools, but who looked much different later when she’d moved back to town and I knew her name, that solved it. I loathed gym. Because I had a mild physical retardation problem, with my coordination having been affected by damage from meningitis as an infant, it was bad enough anyway. The gym teacher was a sadist and just could not bear my inability to function normally. One day, more than one class was in gym at the same time, doing some kind of a dance thing. Carol wasn’t in my class, or I’d have known her name. She was in the class across the hall. That class was there. I believe this may actually be when I first noticed/fell for her, as we were dancing in gym.

During the course of the dance routine, there was holding of hands involved, however briefly. She was my partner in that. It was magic. That was the first and I believe only time holding hands was a thrill. She was pleased, decades later, that she could be a bright spot in the sadistic gym teacher’s class. She would have been receptive at least to knowing me at the time, since she lacked friends and didn’t think people liked her. She had a troubled family situation. I suppose in a way I did, in different ways. I believe I had already noticed her before then, but that was the big scene. I believe it was toward the end of the year, which makes it winter/spring 1971. It was around the time Melody was released, and she resembled Melody, close enough. We were just a year younger. I was 9 turning 10 around that time.

It was the following school year when I really “got” what I had been feeling and kept an eye out for her. That wasn’t going to work, since she had moved away. She briefly lived in a different town than I did then, the same town I live in now, three houses from where I am. Small world or something.

Yeah, there were others, some even getting less credit than maybe they deserved over the years. One, in particular, I sometimes feel was the one that got away, all the way back in sixth grade. But then came ninth grade.

I can’t say that Ella was lightning striking or love at first sight, but it may as well have been for the significance it had. She was in a couple of my classes and I ended up head over heels, but with little more idea of what to do about it than I’d had when I was in fourth. This was significant for being my last innocent crush, well past an age where I should have been having a crush and not thinking about getting physical. Had I been thinking that way, it might have gone better.

It’s hard to remember the day to day. I didn’t go around the school telling everyone I loved her, as Daniel ostensibly did with Melody, but people caught on. I did have one friend heavily in on it. I’ll probably write about him as my Ornshaw. We met essentially because of her. I simply started talking to him about it one day in homeroom. He shared math with us, and lived in the same town as her, if not the same part of town.

It turned out she was a member of a local drum and bugle corps, in the color guard. I started going to watch their practices, as well as lurking around her neighborhood. There were some funny exchanges or episodes between me, her, my friend Frank, her friends, her sister, and the other people in the Corps.

She also resembled Melody somewhat, if not as much as I think Cheryl did. The big thing was the expressions and reactions. Looking serious, intense, vexed… that was all there. The scene in the music room feels like watching me and Ella.

We never dated, but she was the first girl ever to say she loved me. After being evasive, that was yelled out, in public, as bold as it gets. I was floored. I remember barely being able to keep the bike upright as I rode away from the Corps bus she was on, all confused. The thing was, school was over. I eventually realized that if it was somehow embarrassing to be liking me at school, school being out for summer made it safe. That could have been the happiest summer of my life, for all I know. I largely just… stopped. Confused. Dazed. I still don’t understand it.

She didn’t get to be my first kiss, despite a scene in which we were goaded for me to kiss her for luck in an upcoming competition. I wasn’t going to do that in front of the entire drum and bugle corps. She suggested a rain check, and that’s how it forever remained.

My first and best kiss would be Daphne, of all people. I had thrown a party near the end of high school. She ended up on my lap, cuddling with me. This was good, since I’d hoped her coming to the party would spark something. My friend Perry drove my car to take her home, his then girlfriend, my friend Joan, in front with him, while I rode in back with Daphne. That’s when we kissed. That was it. She was completely done after that. But she could be a whole book herself, and this is not a post about her. She just came to mind for the first kiss. Still, none of the other three kissers came close. Nobody else but my wife ever said “I love you.” Nobody else was ever a thrill to take by the hand.

Then we flash way forward, second year of college, which would have been first year after college had I started on the normal timing and finished after the normal duration. I did neither.

Maddie ended up in accounting with me, and in history. She was cute but not beautiful, with short, dark hair. She struggled in accounting. I can’t say I fell for her at first sight or anything, or even that I seriously crushed on her. I did notice, and she noticed I noticed, and she noticed right back, and we sort of fell together without anyone having to be terribly forward, or feel timid enough for nothing to happen. If there was an innocence to it, it was the innocence of my not really seeing her as a sexual partner initially. In some ways she was just my buddy, and felt like a mismatch. Plus I was terrified at the prospect, since I was old now, yet embarrassingly inexperienced. We fell into dating, briefly. I discovered I had a jealous streak if she talked with other guys, even though I never expressed it and in a way we weren’t officially an item. I had some tremendous chances I blew. She will always be the first girl I dated, as far as I am concerned. She will always be that comfortable experience of coming together without effort or trauma. The biggest obstacle is I didn’t take her seriously. This would never have been a long term relationship, but it could have been longer and more involved. I’ll always feel bad about that.

Put the three of them together and you have Melody. Sort of. Maybe. LOL.

It’s Carol, and the timing, and my age and budding awareness, that makes me wonder how things might have been if I had seen Melody circa spring 1971 or so, when it was originally out. Releases didn’t work the same, then. It could be released at the end of March but be part of a double feature at the drive-in that summer. At that age, I had hardly ever been to a theater. It was always the drive-in.

Sixteen Years!

I managed to remember that it’s my 16th blogiversary before the day ended and I went to bed. On February 25, 2003 I made my first post on a blog I had finally setup. I’d thought about it much sooner and could have been in the class of 2002 instead. If I’d started when I first heard of those oddballs doing online diaries, which turned into blogging, it would still have been the late nineties. I never checked that out, but it would have been just my thing in retrospect.

My blogiversary preceded my wedding anniversary by just over ten months, so that was 15 years at the beginning of 2019. That was how we met. Along the way, it did occur to me that who knew, maybe I’d meet someone that way. Didn’t really expect it and it wasn’t why I started. The thought came to mind when I started meeting people online and attracted attention. It was social media before social media existed. There would be overlapping circles of bloggers who read each other’s posts and commented, as well as people who were there just to read and didn’t blog themselves.

My family didn’t know about the blog or pseudonym, as I recall, until I got married and particularly until we drove across the country, documenting it along the way. Big mistake for them ever to know. I’m still not sure I should be posting here or under this name, rather than somewhere I am unknown and building from scratch. Even more from scratch, since I posted so little for so long, scattered in so many places, in a blogosphere that all but disappeared.

For that matter, it’s funny to count it as 16 years when most of that has amounted to nothing. I stopped seriously posting by around 2009, doing it in fits and starts after that. Twitter was fun when it was new and I was big on it in 2007 and 2008, but it wasn’t blogging, and helped kill blogging for me, if not the Facebook would. Then Facebook became a place where you couldn’t say much lest it might offend someone. Both as a matter of what you posted and the length of what you posted.

I think I just blogged in the past week more than I blogged everywhere combined in the past several year. Few years, at least. There was a time I posted regular book reviews and sometimes food-related stuff. What I’ve been posting might be a weird mix and may need to break out of a rut, but it’s a start and it feels amazing.

Where I Went Wrong

There’s the standard “what would you change if you could go back to some point knowing what you know now” kind of thing. On some level, the answer to that is normally “but I wouldn’t want to give up these kids,” who presumably wouldn’t have happened in everything is different land. On the other hand, some different kids got lost in the shuffle that did happen. We just don’t get to know who they are. And the do exist, if you take many worlds quantum theory to be a thing, just with a different you. So don’t cry, Shopgirl. Don’t cry.

That said, and notwithstanding that there are many points where I could make changes happily, large or small, I often feel like I went wrong when I opted for the vocational agriculture program at my high school.

My brother’s first wife suggested it. She had dated boys who were in it, and had an extremely positive impression. Plus farming on some level was in my blood and in my experience. I did a lot of planting, weeding, and picking vegetables. I was around for a lot of cranberry harvests. I loved the growing of flowers, and my grandfather’s little greenhouse.

I had been a top student in chorus, and loved to sing. I’m shy, introverted, vaguely autistic, and terrified of singing in front of others, but I actually could sing. It’s in the blood and the family experience. Naturally I signed up for high school chorus.

We were on double sessions, and that dictated when some of the classes had to be held. It also rendered the two period vocational class a single period for that year. That was the same period as chorus. The school made the logical decision to drop the music and keep the vocational. Would I have done that if, say, at the end of eight grade I had know I could do only one? I don’t know. I might have gone with chorus and academics. It wasn’t a tough sell, making me an aggie, but it was a sell and not something that initiated within me. The best year of the vocational class was that first year. It was basically downhill from there.

If I could go back to eighth grade and the point of making such decisions, there is absolutely no contest in my mind. I would have chosen chorus. What else did I have that year? That would be a one to one trade, so I wouldn’t have to fill two periods. If I did, I might have ended up in one of the history classes I missed.

English, Algebra I, Earth Science, Gym for whatever part of the year that took and study hall the other part… there has to be something else. French! It was my third year of French, though I suspect it wasn’t a prerequisite to have taken the language in 7th and 8th grade. The class was obviously not memorable. I don’t remember it being bad, or especially good. I felt like I wasn’t learning much. When I started German in college six years later, I’d have told you I remembered almost nothing of French. However, I regularly ran into the problem of remembering the French for something instead of the German. But I digress.

I did meet one of my closest friends, Perry, through vocational. By rights he counted for a time as a third “best friend.” My second best friend, Frank, I met earlier that year and have meant to introduce in a post titled something like “My Ornshaw.” My second best friend died several years ago. My first best friend and I may as well be dead to each other, sadly. I am friends with the third one on social media, but he is absent a lot, and is not in the best of health. The first friend, Zack, married the ex-girlfriend, Joan, of the third friend. I was responsible for all of them having met, and particularly so for the union of the first to the girl. Small and convoluted and crazy world. Ditching vocational might have put an end to all that. I might still have met Frank, but with a different dynamic of classes, I might have noticed Ella less and someone else more. Ella helped trigger my befriending Frank, weirdly. There would be a lot of dominoes reversing back to upright in the scenario of no vocational. I can’t say those were bad things that should never have happened, and it’d be weird knowing the difference if I went back. It might be kinder if the terms were to make the decision then forget what came after the first time.

Chorus would have gotten me closer to some of the more academic and more musical kids who in part were already my peeps. I supposed I could have taken it as seriously or casually as I wanted. One concern I have is that I developed a health issue that would have destroyed my ability to sing properly in any reliable way. I still struggle with that, between sensitivity to what I am breathing, and reflux sometimes returning to haunt me.

It would have left me on a more academic track. After ninth, vocational did take 2 periods a day. That took the place of any two other classes, like a history or science or language. I made it worse in 10th grade! I signed up for electronics and the administration didn’t notice or stop me. That was a snootier vocational class that went three years rather than four, but was two periods per day. So four of seven periods in that year were devoted to the two vocational classes. Then it was English, Geometry, and gym. That was why I ended up taking the traditional 10th grade biology in 11th. At least that teacher didn’t hate me as much as the electronics teacher did. I still don’t know why, though it may have had to do with an awareness I didn’t belong in two vocational classes. It was a slap in the face to him when i got the highest grade on the midyear exam. I made a friend in that class who was my introduction to BASIC when he got an early Radio Shack computer. in 1977.

This has gotten long and gone in directions I didn’t intend.

I love to sing. My wife was one of the first people I could sing in front of with little discomfort, and with my kids it was completely natural. Now one of them sings like an angel and writes her own songs. One of them sings competently and taught herself guitar. The other one doesn’t seem interested in singing, but seems to do well on violin in school without bothering to practice, as if he’s just natural at it. I’ve gotten a bit more open about it. I’ve been known to sing along with or in the presence of people at work. A few weeks ago, I sang well the first little bit of Bus Stop by The Hollies for a young coworker who didn’t know the song.

I never wanted to be famous or felt comfortable performing, as my brother did. I’ve actually pondered in years past the idea of vocal lessons. I guess I can see wanting to be famous in that it was a bit of a rush when I was moderately “blog famous” around 2003/2004. When I worked in stores, there was one guy in particular I worked with for a while who, when we were together behind the counter, completed us as something of a comedic duo, entertaining customers. That was fun.

Something I’ve sometimes thought would have been interesting is getting into film. Before there was ever YouTube, and a venue for anyone to do that on some level. There were other reasons I saw a ton of movies circa 1998, but I also could see myself involved in the writing or creation of them. Not something I ever really mention to anyone, or think about actively. I find it hard to imagine acting, though. I am blown away when I see people adopting just the right expression in an artificial situation. I know how much work is involved, rehearsing, directing, doing many takes, getting just the right shots, so maybe you need only capture the right look that one take that’s a keeper. But still. I think I was put off of acting by a tiny play I was involved in during 6th grade. A few people each did a different little story, a series of plays for younger grades. My buddy Paul and I forget who else might have been in ours. It had something to do with picking berries. We laughed uncontrollably through the whole thing, barely able to deliver the lines, and laughed our way off the stage. It may only have been me and Paul, in the actual thing, since he’s the only one I remember. The two of us did much better when we built a telegraph. We both were interested in electricity, electronics and gadgets

So yes, I think I went wrong, not offense to my friends the change would affect, when I opted for the vocational program as I entered high school. I would have a very different life and there would have been more of an academic, professional expectation to pursue and fulfill.

Dialogue Dialog

I just found myself looking up the difference between dialog and dialogue when I found myself uncomfortable typing dialog, to mean words exchange between characters in a story, and changed it to dialogue. I am pretty sure I have been leaving off the -ue in that usage recently, without being tripped over into rebelling.

Looks like it’s overwhelmingly dialogue until very modern times, mainly as a computer term for a dialog box. This makes sense. Conversely, catalog was adopted more universally over catalogue, as an American spelling, long ago.

Modernizing Films and Shows

My youth, too. This is a topic I thought of long before discovering Melody, and had thought to write about in conjunction with it. I just remembered that when I sat down and started to read my unfinished book from a couple years ago. The very beginning holds up better than I had thought it would, for all I had been thinking of making substantial changes that would introduce the characters and modern location more fully. A tiny snippet:

Ben grumbled. He didn’t like camping much in the first place, so why should he have to help load the car with last minute supplies from the basement?

“Come on Ben, you dork!” His older sister, the older older sister, was probably no happier, but at least she loved camping. He was only in it for the swimming. Carrie put on her backpack and followed Lydia out the door and down the stairs.

“Fine,” he said grudgingly.

 By the time he got down two flights of stairs, he had almost caught up with his more enthusiastic siblings. They were at the back of the open part of the basement, looking at the shelves where odds and ends were stored.

 Ben noticed light glowing from under the plywood door to the landlord’s storage area and thought that seemed odd. Nobody ever went in there, and the landlord certainly wasn’t around just then. As he approached the girls, Carrie threw an unopened tarp package at him.

 “Here, carry that to the car,” she ordered.

 He picked up the tarp and the bag of snacks he’d dropped while trying to catch the unexpected missile, turned around and stopped cold.

 Not only was the light under the landlord’s mystery room door brighter now, but also the door was ajar. He had never seen it open. It was normally locked. Presumably it was locked. He had never checked it out. Why would he? But now…

The connection here is that they are going to find themselves in the past, but with one piece of modern technology.

What if the events of any given movie from the past were now? How would you write the same scenario? How amusingly or distressingly would that truncate the plot?

In Melody, phones are barely a thing. They exist, and toward the end are used, but people don’t seem to use them casually, or even have them if they are lower class or poor. Not like it’s the ancient past, after all. If I’d had a crush in, say, 1972, in theory I could have picked up the phone and called the girl, if I could obtain her number. It’s just that I wouldn’t have dared. I didn’t call my junior high crush until after I’d already made, in my eyes, a fool of myself. She liked me a lot but didn’t *like* me, and wasn’t bothered by my foolishness the way I am (decades later, we are friends on social media).

Now? Kids are online, depending on parents and age. They have phones after a certain point. I could say much about the wonders of being young now. The sum of human knowledge at your fingertips? I get absorbed sometimes for hours online, learning things, surfing from one topic to the next. I’d have been in heaven. Timid about calling? Where you might write a note decades ago, if you thought of it, you can write an e-mail or a text. It can spread embarrassment at the speed of internet, but hey. The tools for communication and knowledge are so much better, if less charming than alerts whispered across a room from kid to kid.

This happens in written fiction, too. Wheel of Time would be dramatically less drawn out with instant communications. It becomes more compressed and actions more effective as speeds of travel and communication improve in the manner they do during the series.

I’m so stuck on Melody, I am having trouble thinking of old enough examples to be deeply affected if you updated for internet or ubiquitous smartphones. It’s funny to picture the kids in Melody rushing home to get on their Xboxes to play online games with each other, but that’s a possibility. But then, it’s hard to imagine how one might put internet and a game console where people like the Perkins lived. Under those conditions, what kids would be excited about hanging out together in an overgrown cemetery?

I was thinking I should do a series of posts inserting new technology into old stories to imagine something along the lines of how it should have ended. We’ll see. They’ll need to be less lame and more coherent than this one, if so.

Zap!

There’s an almost indescribable experience that I have been party to just three four times that I can remember. It’s memorable, so I would expect to remember them all. There’s fuzziness between these and falling in love at proverbial first sight, but clearly they aren’t necessarily the same.

This is seeing someone across a room or whatever separates you, and it’s completely electric. Jolting. Perhaps exhilarating. Perhaps disturbing. Perhaps confusing.

The first was with my big high school crush, call her Ella. Not my only or even my first crush in high school, but the most significant unless you count the significance of a girl we’ll call Daphne, who left me believing no girl could ever want me.

Except the zap moment was later. I forget exactly the year, but it was either toward the tail end of high school, or after high school. While I didn’t lose absolutely all interest until three years after high school, when I ran into her and we talked at length just before I started college later than the rest of my age cohort, the main even was 9th and into 10th grade. My brother, by comparison, still dwells on a girl from 8th grade, fifty years ago. She’ll always be a part of my personal history and memories, but we wouldn’t actually have been suited for each other. I’ve been in touch with her sister in the past couple years, expressing condolences after their awesome mother died, but I haven’t seen or talked to her since 1982 as far as I can remember.

Ella was working in a department store, the only one of its name and kind, rather than part of a chain. I had no idea of this when I walked in. I set foot in the door and our eyes met across the distance between the door and the checkout she was manning. It was absolutely electric and I was floored. It was as if the intervening years had never happened. If I’d never seen her before, I’d call it a love at first sight moment, but I knew exactly who she was and was a bit uncomfortable. It was obviously a mutual thing.

The second instance, if it counts, is the one I’d somehow forgotten that led to the strikethrough at the beginning. Call her Tammy. Summer of 1983, between first and second years of college, I was floating around a chain of stores as a temporary assistant manager, covering vacations. First or second day at one store, she walked out of the back room and toward the front. Zap! Not sure there was an mutual there, but for me it was the love at first sight zap. She was one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. She was athletic and was going to college in Maine when she wasn’t home for the summer. We talked a lot and she was a great employee, but I just couldn’t bring myself to ask her out. I had the impression she might already have had someone, but it wasn’t clear.

It was during that interlude that a girl I’d met at a different store earlier in the summer also landed at that store for some hours and made a different impression on me. At the first store, she acted weirdly like “don’t you dare be interested in me!” Not a problem, since I wasn’t, even a little, even though she was objectively attractive. She’s how I first heard of Def Leppard. She was going to a concert one night after work and I had never heard of the band, which was huge then. That girl ended up acting miffed, obviously enough so that even I noticed, that I was not acting interested in her. She was the cause of my forever associating a particular Def Leppard song with Tammy, and to a lesser degree with her. (Naturally I started hearing Def Leppard songs after that, after never having heard one before.)

Flash forward just a little and it’s New Year’s Eve, on the cusp on 1985. I had landed in a specific store as a regular cast member, so to speak. Someone who worked in a completely different store, call her Layla, lived near my store and would come in there sometimes. While I’d never noticed her, she’d noticed me. This is something I think about when I wonder how many girls there were over the decades who might have been interested but gone utterly undetected by me, with or without effort on their part. She started conversing with me when she came in, and even helped free with a lottery crunch one night when I shouldn’t have been alone at all, let alone in the face of a then huge jackpot. Made me nervous to have someone who didn’t work in the store behind the counter, even just feeding cards into the lottery machine, so after a while she left, but that made her more of a presence. We became friendly in a talking and talking about everything way, but it never registered to me that she was or that I ought to be attracted. Indeed, the downfall would arguably that I was not, but I wasn’t exactly dating anyone else.

She invited me to a New Year’s party at a relative’s summer house way out on the Cape. I agreed. I wasn’t a real party person, but hey. We had Chinese on the way. Yum! Everyone but me at the party was a girl. She was the only one I knew, though I would see some of them again.

We had not been there long, hanging in the kitchen initially after bringing in the Chinese leftovers.

A girl walked into the kitchen. ZAP! Never experienced anything like it. Not even any other zap moment. I’d call it chemistry at first sight, more than love at first sight. She was a short-haired blond girl we’ll call Beth. Turned out she went to my college. This was a mutual zap, though not sure what she made of it or how she internalized it.

That made the rest of the evening completely surreal, since all I really wanted to do was be with Beth. Alone. I was with Layla and completely focused on Beth. I managed to irritate Beth because when she told me where she lived at the school, in a rental house, between ambient noise and her accent, I couldn’t parse the name of the road and had her repeat it a time or two. She was from a rich town on the North Shore, which must have given her just enough of a different accent to trip me up.

Although I could easily have ensured nothing else ever transpired between me a Layla after the one date, we did kind of date for a while. It was never properly consummated and was doomed by my relative lack of attraction to her, but she was a decent person. It was on her account that I’ve ever been to New York City. Good memories.

She also marked a point where I rebelled against my programming. Daphne had conditioned me not to be wanted. Just because a girl was on a date with me didn’t mean it was acceptable to, say, put an arm around her when the moment was right, or kiss her, or think that sex might be a possibility.

Prior to Layla, I had hung out with a girl we’ll call Maddie, from some of my college classes. We essentially went on three dates, after drifting inexorably together in the face of her initial reluctance despite being interested. I was reluctant, and it helped doom things, because I didn’t perceive her as intelligent enough. That was part of the meet cute, or what helped get us together: Her need for help in accounting. For me it was the easy first semester of many accounting classes. For her it was the first of two required semesters for folks who weren’t in that major, and was a dire struggle. So I tutored her.

Maddie wasn’t beautiful, perhaps, but she was cute as a button in a way, and was very much attracted to her, yet always dubious. It was the perfect storm of someone I could be friendly and easy with, and someone attractive to me.

Our last date was when I drove north of the city, to where she lived, to go out for her birthday during the summer. Her family was at a cabin in New Hampshire, and she was staying with her grandmother, as I recall. We’d have had the house entirely to ourselves for whatever we wanted to do, but I was a little slow and she had been dealing with a crying grandmother before she came to meet me, convinced her little girl was going to lose her innocence or something. I later realized that that was exactly what Maddie wanted out of the relationship, but wasn’t aggressive enough to ensure in the face of my denseness and Daphne’s damage.

We went to a tourist place in Salem, on the water. At one point, we sat on a bench looking out at the water. It was just a few minutes. I had the powerful urge to put my arm around her, as would be logical in that situation. Daphne popped into my mind with a proxy “no, don’t touch me” and I Just Couldn’t Do It. That intercession in my head was a turning point. From there, I convinced myself I wasn’t interested in Maddie, she wasn’t smart enough or good enough for me. I could do better.

It was the regret from that when I was with Layla that countered Daphne’s influence, even though I just wasn’t that interested in Layla except perhaps as a matter of opportunism.

The next zap I witnessed took ages to arrive. It was at a workplace. A new, young manager arrived. We had never met. I was in a room for a meeting. She walked by the room, met my eyes through the window of the door, and did a double-take. I have never seen anyone react to me that way. The closest might be Beth, but that was more proximate and mutual chemistry. This was more like watching someone fall for me at first sight, or at least find me more attractive than I’ve ever been. It’s all the more fascinating because we aren’t and perhaps never had been on the same proverbial team. I have never stopped being intrigued, and will never forget it. I could be misinterpreting entirely what it was about, but there was massive surprise in the reaction, whatever the case.

Speaking of looks, I have most always been convinced, to one degree or another, that I was completely unattractive, even ugly. Girls fought to sit with me on the bus in kindergarten when I was a cute little blond boy, but that was about the end of it. Once in a great while I get some input to the contrary. I’m long since biased enough that it takes essentially no data to convince me the negative direction, and endless data to budge me in the positive direction. I’m like that in other things. Any negative is absolute truth and set in stone. Any positive is unbelievable.

The most recent particularly compelling positive came when my oldest friend, Julie, and her older sister, had an 80th birthday party for their mother. My mother and sister also went. When I walked in, both Julie and her sister, having not seen me in decades, with no stake in doing so, said ‘WOW!” in reaction to my appearance. Good wow, not bad wow. In my favor, I am relatively well preserved, and my hair may not have been overdue for cutting at the time. But I am still overweight. I was persuaded when I was a kid, and was actually not that heavy, that my weight was a huge personal failing entirely my responsibility and rendering me unacceptably ugly. Daphne indirectly contributed to my internalizing that outlook. When, during college, I lost so much weight that I started to look anorexic, I remained convinced I was too heavy and, even if not, unattractive. That almost anorexic weight was almost a hundred pounds below where I am now, which really is 30+ pounds too high.

Anyway, I digress again. This is why verbosity was my reputation and ended up in my blog name. Believe it or not, when i started typing, I chose this topic because it was a brief post. Ha! Shows what i know.

Storytelling

One of the things I wanted to write about in regard to Melody and myself involves the skill involved in the storytelling – the presentation and progression involved in showing what needs to be shown, without starving or overfeeding the audience. We get a wonderful, thought provoking, moving story without being left short and wanting more, beyond a modicum of curiosity or blanks we might like but needn’t have filled. Much is shown, not stated in dialog, enhanced with setting sequences to songs. I was sure this would be a huge post, so I have hesitated to start. Perhaps I can start, get as far as I get, then complete the thoughts in subsequent post(s) if needed.

I started writing a book a couple years ago, finally bringing together some ideas and things niggling at my mind for many years as to setting and such. I ended up drifting away from it, partly because I got busier, partly because writing is hard, and partly because loss of focus, direction, or inspiration can derail you for a time or a lifetime. Melody, specifically the way the story was presented, has helped inspire me. Along with that, I’ve had some additional ideas, and may be ready to try again. As I wrote, it was already visual and film-like, to me. Not hard, being inspired by my childhood, where I grew up, and my kids.

Needless to say, anything that goes into this kind of detail about the movie will spoil it if you haven’t seen it.

First, the setting is established while a Bee Gees song that had been unfamiliar to me plays. Completely suitable, though, since it talks about morning, ends in evening, and how it’s the morning of his life. It is the morning of the lives of the children involved, and the introductory song seems to touch on a dreamy relationship at the end of the song. It has a childlike innocence and magic, and urges patience. This fits with details much later in the film, but could have helped inspire it:

building castles in the shifting sands
in a world that no one understands

I probably had heard and dismissed the song years ago, but I love it now. It means so much.

You see the area where to story will take place from the air, and then you meet Daniel and Ornshaw as they participate in Boy’s Brigade. Ornshaw first, in fact, then Daniel held up as a comparison. We get an idea that Daniel’s mother is obnoxious and snobby. We get an idea of Ornshaw’s situation and see Daniel’s home life. Even his father makes fun of his mother’s antics.

Daniel seems sweet and innocent, but lights his father’s newspaper on fire by way of acting out. The song we hear playing on the radio is the same one the kids will dance to days later, a nice touch.

Then we meet Melody, the title character, to instrumental strains of her theme song, as the rag man arrives out front and she looks wistfully at what’s in his cart for trade. This introductory part does the job of portraying a more childlike side she is perhaps already losing. It also, in a more subtle way than Danny’s acting out, shows the anarchic nature of children when she takes clothing from the house to trade for things.

Back with Daniel, we learn he is talented at painting, but his mother objects to his moving to painting nudes and having something that someone gave him at school to show what they look like, She subtly destroys his painting and diverts him with the model rocket his father had broken, while she takes the material showing topless women. Thus we learn he’s good at painting and building models, and cement that she’s a lousy parent, not very nice at heart.

Back to Melody, we establish that she plays the recorder, which she’s doing in the bathroom to her mother’s annoyance. It appears that her mother and grandmother might not know she had traded clothing for a goldfish. The pinwheel is a symbolic connection to childhood. Sent to find her dad at the pub and get money for ice cream (we never see ice cream until she is with Daniel at the seaside, intentional resonance or not), she takes her newly acquired goldfish for a walk. During this part, Melody Fair by the Bee Gees plays, and it’s essentially a music video for the song. She doesn’t go find her father at first, but lets the fish go for a swim in a metropolitan water trough, still in the same spot at Lambeth and Kensington Roads almost fifty years later, but as a planter.

After catching the fish back into its jar, she heads to the pub, which is also still there. She looks through the windows, and into the door as an entering customer holds it open, but waits outside, looking worried. I had the impression kids weren’t allowed in. Her dad steps out, drink in hand, no indication how he ever knew she was there. we see her show the fish and presumably explain her mission, and he gives her money and tousles her head. She may make fun of him spending all his time in the pub later, and may glare at him repeatedly as only a girl that age can, but they obviously adore each other. She walks off. We segue into a scene of mayhem as kids race through an overgrown cemetery to school.

The initial introduction of the main two characters, and to a lesser extent the tertiary main character, are basically complete and now we set the stage with the school and surroundings that will play a big role. There’s an extended crowd scene of kids doing as much mischief as they can manage on the way to class. We meet the headmaster and get a humorous introduction to both the lame instruction and the challenge the kids can be.

That segues into kids going to morning recess, or break. The play games, fight, hang out and talk, one of them smokes, and we get to meet some of the supporting cast of friends. We see Melody in the context of a big group of friends, including the one who has kissed boys and is most advanced. Very much 5th grade as would have been familiar to me in 1971/1972. All the girls laugh when Muriel says she never used to kiss boys because she thought kissing would bring babies.

We move to history class with Daniel and Ornshaw, with more humor about the teaching. Ornshaw asks a valid question, showing how smart he actually is, but gets treated as cheeky and stupid.

After school, some boys go out by railroad tracks while one of them tries his latest attempt at a homemade explosive. Daniel follows. He’s apparently new and has no friends in the school yet. They tell him to go away, but Ornshaw defends him and he joins in. Bomb is a dud and they go to the bus stop. First bus leaves without most of the kids, then Ornshaw and Daniel establish their friendship by going out on the town, to Trafalgar Square, running around and goofing off to Give Your Best to Your Friends. This parallels a similar, later sequence when he is with Melody.

When Ornshaw needs to get home, Daniel freaks him out by getting a taxi, because money. This is one of many ways in which class distinctions are established.

We find that Ornshaw takes care of his grandfather and will have hell to pay if he doesn’t get home now. Daniel volunteers his mother to come help them out, as she does social welfare volunteer work.

That ends the beginning part of the film, where the basics are established. Melody and Daniel haven’t met yet. Daniel and Ornshaw had immediately become besties. This makes Melody displacing Ornshaw possible, because it will put Melody into Daniel’s life. At least, sooner rather than later. Same school, same year, they could have met eventually.

Now, my story started with minimal setup, then action, of sorts. That could work, but now I am thinking that maybe the kids should be better introduced. In writing it can be explained, but if it were on screen, there would have to be establishing scenes that show in a wider way where they are, who they are, why they are there, and how they reach the scenario where the action starts. I figured out how I can make this happen and give what comes next a more logical basis to boot. Since I was thinking about the story and the pacing as a result of this, I also solidified how to deal with one of my concerns about the later sequences. For that matter, they are not the only character and scenario to be introduced. That one was actually going to have more of an introduction, but I see how I can improve it, and perhaps that will unstick me on that part. I hadn’t even been able to begin writing it, and had written the character starting from the point where he meets the other three.

This observation is more about the storytelling subsequently in the film, but I was struck by the use of vignettes separated in time, sometimes ambiguously so, and by what was left out because every little thing need not be told or shown. It might not affect my writing, but I also observed just how much can be conveyed by minimal action. Tiny bits of dialog. Expressions, looks. Tracy Hyde was a master of that. It’s a wonder she didn’t have more of an acting career, but perhaps that’s a reflection of how poorly Melody did at the box office, and how long it languished before getting a DVD release in 2010.

I may break down the rest of the story later. I also need to talk about my Melody-like experiences, and about the mechanics of production. Having been there for one long day of shooting footage with a bunch of kids, I can imagine how grueling it was. All the more so after hearing the description of the whole day of shooting it took just for the obnoxious dinner party, and the large number of takes it took of the scene in the headmaster’s office, where the director thought he’d never get Mark Lester riled up enough to express Daniel’s anger.

Melody Remake

Melody is definitely a product of its time. One of the topics that came up in the BFI roundtable video was someone wanting to do a remake. The director and writer didn’t understand how that would be possible, on the one hand, and on the other hand described Moonrise Kingdom, partly inspired by Melody, as a remake. That movie is one I’ve never seen, that never pinged my radar, but that I’d now like to see. It appears to be funnier and perhaps less adorably innocent, while leaning that way.

But a remake? A new Melody? Hard to imagine. An exact analog? Just about as hard to imagine. You might have to do it as a time travel movie to capture anything like it, or as a memory/dream of the past. I could totally see either of those kinds of scenarios. Peggy Sue Got Married, but with a childhood crush. Since mine all went wrong, I could imagine making one go right, or giving it a better shot. But if you go back and are the youngster, knowing what you know, you’re not exactly innocent. Maybe you go back as a friend or classmate and exert influence.

You know what I wouldn’t mind? A book version. Not sure it’d sell, but the film leaves me wanting more detail, to know more about what they are thinking and feeling, and about their families and situations. I’d been thinking to post about the timeline of the movie, what happens when, how much time passes between scenes/events, and how much time the whole thing covers. Maybe I’ll launch right into that, now it’s on my mind. I am normally a reader of SF and fantasy, though I’ve been known to read almost anything. What would you call it? Fictional biography? Young adult romance? Juvenile romance? Emphasize the school aspect, the other kids and the revolt, and call it something else?

Yeah, I don’t think a remake seems like a good or viable idea. A direct one would be a period piece, but the past is a foreign country and it’s hard to capture the scenery or the feel with modern locations. A book? I’d read a book that was the exact story, expanded. Heck, I’d read the script it was made from, and watch any deleted scenes. It’s a shame it was made in pre-VHS days, let alone pre-DVD days. Few people even had cable TV then. If Melody appeared now and had mediocre box office, it’d be out on DVD shortly, complete with deleted scenes, interviews, etc. It’s amazing we have the 17 minutes of “making of” footage we do on YouTube.

Melodye and a Dog Named Boo

Funny thing with the Melody movie discovery is that I have a story of my own involving that name and with a connection to 1971, but the name was spelled Melodye. I never knew the name until my recounting the story on Facebook led someone to goad me into researching.

However you spell it, in retrospect it’s a great name and I could easily have used it for my daughter. I’d long since realized the same about Molly. But that’s neither here nor there.

When I was a kid, on the green in the town of East Bridgewater would be free concerts on the gazebo/bandstand. I’d go sometimes, usually with my grandparents, sometimes with additional family. A local country group called The Chisholm Brothers played more than once. While I was never a big country fan, it was fun, especially since my grandfather had taught one of the guys to play harmonica and got pointed out in the audience one time.

In 1971, Lobo released Me and You and a Dog Named Boo. I loved that song from the first, and still do. It’s hard to resist singing along. That’s the 1971 connection, but I have no idea what year we are in at the concert. I can guess. Obviously the earliest it could be is sometime 1971, if the song was released early enough int he year to be a hit before those summer concerts. No way, even if I didn’t know I was older than ten. (This all brings to mind another topic: music and my life. Note to self…)

It wasn’t 1974. I wasn’t that old. Thus it was 1972 or 1973. I believe it was the former, because the following summer I’d have been focused on hanging with my friend and would have been less likely to have stayed with my grandparents a lot. 1972 Put me at 11, and a sensitive age. I was in chorus and loved to sing, but was terrified of singing alone in front of others. Though that is its own story and had more of a basis than mere shyness or anxiety.

So here are these guys, performing at this little concert on the green, and they put the daughter of one of them up to try her hand at singing for us. She was older than me. Three years older, I now know, and that would have been my guess. I was 11, she was 14, and she sang Me and You and a Dog Named Boo beautifully. I was smitten. Obviously it was one of those transient things, if you don’t count that I never forgot it, and never forgot how it felt to be instantly taken with her. Not to mention admiring her voice, her nerve getting up there and performing as I was sure I would never be able to dare, her choice of song, and the fact she did it so well.

I kind of miss the mystery. Having searched starting with little but her surname, now I know she was Melodye Chisholm, now Bushkin. I also learned that I knew her aunt’s family when I was younger. Apart from having attended my childhood church – her father still does, so I could have found out a lot of this just by asking my sister the right questions – her cousin was a good friend of my cousin, and we spent a fair amount of time hanging out when I was around my late teens and maybe into my twenties. Small world.

So there’s my Melodye story inspired by my attention having been drawn my Melody.

Discovering Melody

I love the Bee Gees. I have since I was a kid and they were still producing their early, pre-disco hits. Before my record collection got destroyed, dating to before CDs were big, I owned most Bee Gees albums and had heard songs dating back to the earliest days of singles only, found on collections later. I saw them in concert on August 28, 1979 and it was amazing, though I was sad that some of the favorite older songs were done as a medley. This sets up how I came to be playing videos of Bee Gees songs on YouTube. I still do that sometimes, even with music I own. Early in our marriage, the wife gave me a four CD Bee Gees anthology. She tolerates them, unlike her distaste for The Carpenters.

Recently I discovered that favorites of mine, less mainstream than some even among their older hits, had videos associated with scenes from a movie. Heck, it wasn’t even that recently, but it was recently I went back and watched the movie in full. Repeatedly.

The movie is Melody, released in 1971, just before I turned ten. It didn’t do well in the US, and I never saw it back then. It was popular in Japan and a few other places, which is perhaps the only reason it’s not even more obscure. Besides the Bee Gees connection and two of the kids in it being famed child stars of the time. They had rights to several Bee Gees songs, so the writer incorporated Melody Fair and First of May into the plot. It would be easy to assume the songs were written for the film, but they predated it. It also makes perfect use of To Love Somebody, which may be my favorite Bee Gees song of all.

I have so much to say about or inspired by it, this is going to end up being a whole series of posts. I just created a subcategory for the film under the movies category. It dredged so many memories and feelings. It has also been a study in making a good movie and telling a story. Had I seen it at the time, and no been inexplicably bored or sleepwalking through it, it would have been formative. While this isn’t the topic I intended to explore in this post, the year it came out I was one year younger than the age depicted of two of the main characters, who in real life were also that age during filming a year before. That is, Tracy Hyde and Mark Lester are is two years my senior. Correction: mark Lester is three years my senior. She turned 11 while they were filming, April 1970. He was already 11, turning 12 in July 1970. The other primary actor was already about 17, but looked young. I interpret him to be slightly older than them, but in the same grade level in school. That was the late Jack Wild.

At the time when the movie released, I was experiencing my first crush, in fourth grade. I was completely clueless, except it felt amazing. I didn’t really understand what I was feeling. Seeing such a thing shown in a movie would have been interesting, especially given Melody’s somewhat resemblance to the girl in question. I never knew her name! It was pure chance that I learned several years ago her name is Cheryl.

One of the first things I wanted to write about after seeing the movie was the ending. Now, if you don’t want to be spoiled, even though it’s coming up on 50 years old, go search on YouTube and watch it: Melody movie. Some are better than others in picture quality, but some have unsychronized sound that can drive you crazy.

At the end, there is a revolt of the classes the star characters are in. Melody and Daniel are in love and want to get married, because isn’t that what you do to be together all the time? Sweet and innocent, and not taken well by the adults and, initially, classmates. You go from scenes of heartbreak to what appears to be the next day – timeline of the thing is another post – when they are just getting married. Daniel’s annoying mom finds a note he left saying they are eloping, freaks out, contacts the headmaster, and when he finds the kids never showed back up after morning break, the chase begins. The ending is entertaining, but in some ways feels disconnected from what precedes it. And yet, how do you end a film in which 11 year old fifth graders, were they American, are in such serious puppy love that they want to marry and can’t understand why they can’t, with too much they don’t yet know. I remember how love felt then, and I don’t recall any barking. If it were me and someone reciprocated, I might not have been thinking in terms of marriage, but I would have understood exactly how the characters felt.

The headmaster and bunch of teachers, plus Daniel’s mother, drive off to where they’ve learned the kids are. The kid who has been trying to make a successful homemade explosive during the course of the film was the only one to stay behind. He runs off to warn the others and reaches them just ahead of the adults. Being a fan of The Princess Bride, I can’t help thinking “man and wife, say man and wife” when they are interrupted right after they give the “I will” responses to the friend who is officiating.

Of course, this is not a real marriage, and they are being kids. The sheer level of panic strikes me as uncalled for. It wouldn’t be as exciting an ending, though, if the kids did the ceremony, went back to class, and everyone carried on. Prior to the elopement note, you never see Daniel’s parents being aware of Melody, even after the day the two kids skipped school to go to the seacoast. Whereas Daniel meets her parents and they like him a lot.

While the other kids give the adults a hard time about being captured, Daniel and Melody run off to escape, aided by Ornshaw, Daniel’s ne’er do well friend who figures so heavily into the story, including provoking the “meet cute” scene where Daniel falls at proverbial first sight. Eventually they get on a trolley on the rails – one of those little flat carts you propel by pumping two ends of a handle up and down. So it ends with Daniel and Melody riding off into the distance on an partly overgrown track.

My thought: Now what?

Seriously, I couldn’t help thinking what happens next.

Besides Melody and Daniel, now “married,” heading off, the chase of the kids ended when the kid who’d been unsuccessful with improvised explosives manages to blow up Daniel’s mother’s fancy car. Class issues in the film are another topic. And there’s good reason that one of the categories the movie falls under is black comedy. The teachers run off. The kids cheer and dance around. Mom looks lost and bewildered.

Is there anyone who won’t face consequences? What happens.

First, where are Daniel and Melody going to go? What are they going to do? Unless it turns into fantasy, like a fan thing I saw where they’re suddenly at Hogwart’s and people are wondering how 11 year olds can say they are married, the answer is home. They go home. And they go to school. And they continue to hang out together as much as possible. Which they could have done without the whole marriage notion.

If you extrapolate from First of May, they are in love while others are being kids, but it doesn’t last. Or if it does, when they are sufficiently older, they have lost their romantic feelings for each other. I know someone who set her sights on marrying a classmate when we were in third grade. Third! They recently moved to Maine, and have a bunch of grandchildren. The long term isn’t impossible.

The mom has to get home and explain to her husband what happened to the car. When Daniel does go home, they won’t exactly be happy, unless they are willing and able to shrug it off and move on.

Melody will arguably be in the least trouble at home. Her family are as supportive as they know how, a loving, lower class family rather than distant or absent. Her family isn’t involved in the ending at all, and would not be in a panic the way Daniel’s mother was.

The teachers and headmaster have to slink back to the school with proverbial egg on their faces. Assuming there are no authorities that give them trouble, the best thing they could probably do is carry on teaching as if nothing ever happened.

The rest of the kids are going to have to return to school later if not that day. They’re going to be seeing and dealing with those horrible teachers again. That could be bad, unless everyone just pretends nothing ever happened.

It’s definitely a fictional ending, because consequences.

Sprechen Sie Deutch?

There are 21 counties in America where a substantial number speak German at home, which I agree is more fascinating than the amazing number where that is true of Spanish.

The real story lies in where, and in what other languages are included. Predictably, in my neck of the woods, it is Portuguese. There is enough of this that you see a demand for portuguese speakers to work for doctors, and bilingual signs in places like banks. The same applies to Chinese in Eastern Massachusetts. When I lived in Quincy, you were almost out of place if you weren’t either Irish – and not necessarily umpteenth generation off the boat – or Chinese. Bilingual signs everywhere, and a Chinese supermarket near my apartment.

No surprise there’s a lot of French up near the border between Canada and the Northeast.

Surprising might be the lack of Pennsylvania counties where German is 10% or more, and the number where it is not the highest even when looking at the specs for the uncolored counties that fell under 10% of one or another.

Happy Anniversary!

On this day nine years ago, we were on our way from Fresno to Las Vegas, arriving late in the afternoon at the Luxor. After checking in, we searched for the place where you pay the government for the right to be married. And searched. Eventually, we found it. A clever sales guy outside snagged our business for the Las Vegas Wedding Chapel. No idea where we’d have ended up, left to our own devices. That worked out, and we rewarded him for the good sense to patrol the opposite side of the street from the mob of other chapel sales people.

And so we got married, as originally planned, sight unseen, we’d hit it off that well long distance. Is friendship the best basis for marriage? Does agreeing on most things supply longevity that might not be there if it were mainly about an overheated attraction? Perhaps. We each had some second thoughts, even then, and we’ve not been problem-free. Yet we don’t seem to be going anywhere, and non-traditional though we may sometimes be, the kids do not appear to be doomed to grow up in a sundered household, as I and so many did. Have the rocky parts ultimately strengthened us? Arguably so.

All told, I can’t imagine my life alone, or with that hypothetical wasn’t-gonna-happen someone else. Or without the three kids. These specific kids, born of this particular mother. I can regret my age and timing, and ponder mightabeens, but wow. Just wow.

Time travel to the post I wrote after my return home, five days later, apparently my first substantive post following the wedding.

Backpacks

I was thinking about backpacks just the other day. My three kids all had to have them to start kindergarten. It’s required. I already knew that they were pretty much ubiquitous these days, but…

I was in school until 1979, and never once had a backpack. Not even in high school. Nor did other people, at least not enough for me to notice. Books and such were carried in your arms. It was awkward, inconvenient, even sometimes painful, but at least during school there were lockers, and generally not everything had to come home overnight. Yet I am no sure how we managed without them.

College was different. While I didn’t start college until 1982, they’d long been a given in that environment. I may not have known that until contemporaries started college in 1978 and 1979, but by the time it was my turn, I knew to head to the store and spend $30 (in 1982 dollars! For one far less good than my kids have for much less!) in anticipation of the backbreaking load of books I would have to cart around.

Funny how that works, seeing the same topic addressed right after I’ve pondered it myself.