The Cutting Edge

Watched The Cutting Edge on Amazon Prime last night. It’s the umpteenth time I’ve seen it, but it had been a while. Between me and the wife, Three copies of it came into the marriage. She grew up partially in Minnesota. We, and her family, sometimes quote it as if it were The Princess Bride or something.

Naturally I like it because it’s a romantic comedy, albeit more dramatic than some. However, I have always loved figure skating. My father loved it and I grew up with that. Everyone but me ice skated, to some degree, on the bogs. They used my physical problems and the presumption I’d be unable to do it as a reason not to spend the excessive money skates for me would have cost. It was roller skating that my father competed in, in roller dancing pairs. He also played ice hockey, which did a number on his knee.

Throw figure skating and romance together and it’s all over. Funny thing is, I remember hearing about the film when it was in production and being intrigued but skeptical. I never went to see it, catching it years later on video.

I still love it, but I don’t find Moira Kelly as attractive as I once did. Rachelle Ottley is still pretty awesome, though. I remain surprised that D.B. Sweeney didn’t have a bigger career.

If any girl had behaved toward me the way Kate did to Doug initially, it would have been all over. Sadly, that became my mental image of girls at an early enough age to stick. They also didn’t have to be that way all the time. Once was enough. It’s like reputation. Once destroys it. Building it takes Every Single Time without that Once. I try to be understanding of root causes when I see that now, but it’s not so easy when you’re younger.

Heck, I can think of an example offhand, even though she’s nobody I ever found attractive. She would have helped establish the broader negative impression. My 4th grade crush, in what could have been a Melody-like scenario, had a single friend in town. That friend’s father went on the destroy my woods and build on the land around us. To my crush, that girl was awesome. I saw her as a bitch who hated me, notably around 6th grade. I find it hard ever to think of her any other way, and was shocked when she saw me at an event in another town a couple years later and greeted me with enthusiastic friendliness. When I think of writing a Melody-like story based on my youth, someone analogous to her would probably be a character and I find it hard to picture her as helpful and sympathetic. And yet sleeping over her house was how my crush got some time out of the home environment with her town drunk father.

I digress. I really love The Cutting Edge. I’m liable to watch it a dozen more times before I expire. Granted, I’ve already watched Melody more, and Moonrise Kingdom twice if you don’t count the large portion of it I’d seen via clips. It may have been considered cheesy, but to me it’s a classic.

And None On The Wife’s Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Really… NO Little Indians

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Manhattan (2005)

What a wonderful movie! I discovered this via a forum where Melody was being discussed and other movies came up. It looked like it would be so good that I took a chance and bought it. It doesn’t hurt that Bradley Whitford features as the father of 10 almost 11 year old Gabe, as I am a big fan. Though I’m not sure I’ve ever actually seen Whitford play anything other than Josh Lyman, just with different character names and scenarios. Perhaps a bit like William Shatner is always William Shatner, whatever the role.

If you like Melody or Moonrise Kingdom, you will like this. It has kind of a mixed happy ending, pretty much as you expect to get right from the start. If I’d had a Rosemary, I’d have not been 42 when I got married.

The kids were absolutely delightful and well cast. Josh Hutcherson went on to become big. Charlotte Ray Rosenberg, introduced in her first role shades of Tracy Hyde in Melody, was perfect, stunning, and has spent a lot of time doing other things before really continuing an acting career. They were 11 when filming Little Manhattan, and she was his first kiss courtesy of the movie kiss.

The dynamic is different from that of Melody, but wandering free around London and Manhattan aren’t so different. It’s summer, so no classmates for most of the film, unless you count karate class, which is the catalyst. Instead of the ballet class, he falls in love with her when he tags along while she goes dress shopping to be a flower girl at her aunt’s upcoming wedding. In some ways they seem older than the kids in Melody, by being modern. In others, they seem younger, which they are, in screen age. I haven’t tried to figure out when the movie filmed, but these things are typically the preceding year or so before the release year. They were both born in 1992, so turned 13 in the year it released. The fun fact about the first kiss said they were 11 when that happened. By comparison, Tracy and Mark were just 11 and almost 12 during the filming of Melody. The kids in Melody were verging on turning 12. The kids in this one were just 11 and verging on turning 11. Essentially a school year younger than the kids in Melody. Just out of 5th grade for the summer as opposed to being close to getting out of 6th grade for the summer.

There are a lot of differences between this and the other movies. It’s about first love, sort of a coming of age and the realization girls don’t have cooties, whatever those are. It’s also a look at the relationships or would-be relationships of others around them, and at how kids see things, how adults see things, and how adults might just be kids who got older without actually “knowing it all.”

I feel like I shouldn’t say too much because spoilers, and yet it’s been out for 14 years. Just because I never heard of it doesn’t mean it’s new enough for the need of spoiler warnings to apply.

The fantasy elements are funny and sometimes touching.

The film uses the same flash forward thing Moonrise Kingdom does to suck you in with the goldfish right up front. When it gets there in practice and there’s like 20% of the film left, it’s clear that was just a flash forward to a critical point.

It’s nice to see adults take the “love life” of kids that young seriously, and not in an alarmed sort of way. Granted, they neither tried to get married nor ran away together. Her parents effectively taking them on a cool date was awesome. Even more so when, on top of the hand holding opportunity, they actively provided the chance at the first kiss.

I’ve been to New York City – Manhattan – exactly once in my life, for an afternoon. I’ve never been a city person, and in a way I don’t relate to it at all. On the other hand, it’s America’s city, maybe the world’s city, and it was a cool place to visit. This almost makes me want to watch one of my favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail, again. It’s been… at least several years. I’m not even sure I ever got that on DVD. It may have been VHS.

Oh! One cool thing I wanted to mention is the song. They used a cover of Love Grows, which is a natural with a romance featuring a girl named Rosemary. Looks like it’s by someone I’ve never heard of named Freedy Johnston. No offense, and it’s actually pretty good, but the original is one of my all time favorite songs and I still prefer Love Grows by Edison Lighthouse. It almost made me wish I’d loved a girl named Rosemary so the song would fit. There was a Rosemary on elementary school. Nice girl and all, but not someone I’d ever picture as more than my buddy. No idea what ever happened to her. I’ve actually asked people who shared her surname if they were related over the years. There’s also a Rosemary I am acquainted with online, dating back to 2003 through blogging.

One more thing. Watching the trailer after seeing the movie… The trailer is the movie, basically. Extreme Reader’s Digest version, but it’s basically there. You won’t see them go all the way across NYC to look at an apartment his father could potentially move to, or come all the way back, 67 blocks, on a scooter, to find the cops had been engaged because his mother realized he was missing. But it’s the high points, near enough. Really you should watch it all if you can and if you like this sort of thing.

 

 

Moonrise Kingdom Rewatch (Sorry, Melody Kind of Took Over the Post)

I decided to rewatch Moonrise Kingdom last night and, while I liked it the first time, this time found myself feeling delighted when it ended. And I don’t mean in a thank goodness that’s over sort of way.

I don’t have a lot of new observations. I did notice more details, like Edward Norton’s relationship, potential or actual, with the operator being evident throughout. It was more professionally produced than Melody. That was, after all, a first film. Even the director was more of a TV person when he did Melody. MK is meant to be more surreal than Melody.

MK is about broken people and a broken community. What heals Sam and Suzy is each other. The very worst outcome would have been for them to be barred from ever seeing each other again. Melody and Daniel may have clicked and felt more complete together, but so did Ornshaw and Daniel as friends. They would have survived being apart. What heals the community is Sam and Suzy. It was this viewing of Moonrise Kingdom in which I picked up on the meaning of the orchestra record. It talks about the instruments and sections of the orchestra, then how they are amazing when all put together.

Sam and especially Suzy look and seem more mature than Daniel and Melody, though Melody’s apparent age and maturity varies wildly through the film and even within proximate scenes. I have chalked that up in part to filming taking place over four months combined with a high growth age. Melody and Daniel are implicitly on the cusp between 11 and 12. It’s late in what would be 6th grade in the US. A kid at that point in school would turn 12 between September 1 and August 31. Their story centers around the month of May.

Speaking of the timing of Melody, I’ve seen a photo or screen capture of something that was not in the film that has a date on it. The picture is in the music room. Daniel is holding up his cello and using the bow. Melody is standing to the other side of the cello. Her recorder is in her left hand. Her right hand wraps around the neck of the cello from the back to press the strings. Behind and above them and the cello is a plain black and white poster for Iowa String Quartet, from USA, and at the top it says something about April 1 and at the bottom has lists of performances or whatever. The poster is never apparent in the actual scene. Even the thing you can see the bottom of that could be it doesn’t really look like it’s the same.

So was this the kids playing around and someone captured a photo? Was this an alternate idea for a shoot of the scene? I’d actually bet it’s the latter. It strikes me that they had a script, kind of, but they tried this and that, did many takes, then pieced things together. My favorite part where the narrative fails is in the headmaster’s office. Now, that scene famously took all day anyhow. Mark Lester was so unflappable that he was unable to muster the anger required to yell at the headmaster. Even when he did, he sounded more petulant child than properly angry. Or scornful might be the word, not petulant. They may have used what they had to use. However, when Daniel says “we want to get married,” Melody’s head whips sideways to give him a shocked, startled WTF look that has possible interpretations ranging from “why are you telling him that” to “we want to do what” and it’s not clear. It doesn’t fit with her subsequent vehemence about getting married, though.

The music room scene is almost perfect as it is. I am especially taken by 11 year old Tracy capturing the exact same look of confused consternation I can recall seeing on 14 year old Ella along the way. Having a scene where Rhoda goes in to try out and Melody expresses curiosity about the cello would change the dynamic between the two kids. They would have interacted more. She would have had more of an impression of him, perhaps one that led to her declaring him “quite a nice boy, really.” It would have made his playing the cello a more important plot point. Neither that nor painting make an appearance again. Of course, there’s also a picture out there of Jack Wild in Daniel’s room playing with a paintbrush in a scene that wasn’t used. We are just to take it on faith that there was a lot more interaction between the boys. In reality, the time that passed between the day he fell in love with Melody and the day he said it had been a week ought have been longer. Even if not, there ought have been more time from the boys meeting to Melody becoming a factor, but it implies it was almost immediate.

I digress. Funny how Melody takes over.

My point is that I think Wes Anderson knew exactly what he was going to shoot and how he was going to shoot it. There’s always multiple takes to get things just so, but there was probably less shooting of alternative versions than I perceive there to have been for Melody.

Moonrise Kingdom is explicit in describing the kids as 12. It’s the beginning of September, so for the main events of the film, they would be about to start 7th grade, rather than coming up on the end of 6th grade/first form. I think I originally thought they were more dramatically older than the Melody kids, but that may have been when I was confused by a year, after I had worked it out and then forgotten. There is still innocence, but less so. They hang out in their underwear. It’s not just seen sometimes because of absurdly short dresses. They kiss and then French kiss. She remarks on his resulting erection. She invites him to touch her bra-covered breasts and notes that she expects them to grow. They sleep cuddled up together. We have no reason to believe there’s anything more to it.

All we see in Melody is holding hands, an arm around her, an accidental almost kiss, and a lot of smiles and eye talk. There are images out there in which a kiss on a cheek happens in the context of the film and appears to be something filmed and not used. Otherwise the kisses on cheeks are things like publicity and cover photos. They are still on the innocent side of the cusp of teen years. Daniel wants to paint a nude and has a girlie magazine he was given in support of that, but to him he’s doing it as a painting type he’d not tried before. Jack flashes girlie pictures in class, and the boys know that this is a cool and forbidden thing. The age isn’t completely innocent. The girls are boy crazy to varying degrees, even if they don’t all know much more than it takes more than kissing to bring babies. Melody knows darn well why her mother and granny are freaking out about the man in the raincoat story and is being a wise ass. Jack and Daniel jokingly try to sneak into a girlie show at Trafalgar Square. There’s awareness of forbidden fruits. At the same time, Daniel isn’t thinking “I’d like to get naked with her” when he sees and falls in love with Melody. I know exactly what he felt. Been there. Got the scars and memories. I knew hanky panky existed to some degree or another, but got crushes that were pure emotion. Moonrise Kingdom is just a tiny bit farther along the spectrum.

Daniel and Melody aren’t broken the way Sam and Suzy are, but something is missing from their lives. Daniel found that to some degree in Ornshaw, and arguably more vice-versa, which is why Ornshaw was so hurt by Melody coming along. Imagine Melody. Dad is always working or drinking. Mom makes fun of him. Mom and Granny can be overbearing stick in the muds and de facto absentee by turns. There aren’t siblings. The other kids in the building, to whom Melody seems to relate initially, are not her contemporaries. They are poor but do have a relatively happy and stable family life compared to some. Daniel comes from money but has a horrible helicopter mom who, again, can be absentee when she’s not smothering him. His father is indifferent but at least has the good grace to question his wife’s choices of what she puts Daniel through. They fight a lot and it’s a much less happy home, for all there’s enough money. Ornshaw is an orphan being raised by his grandfather, effectively meaning he cares for the grandfather and is raising himself. Sam is the orphan, in MK, while Suzy obviously is the moneyed side of things but with troubled parents. MK doesn’t set out to be  as much about class differences as Melody.

This time around, I made the connection between the reference to electric shock therapy and Sam getting hit by lightning.

The interlocutor was an interesting and potentially annoying addition to Moonrise Kingdom. It helped speed the narrative along and, breaking the forth wall, explained things efficiently at times so they wouldn’t have to be shown or explained any other way. It preserved and even added to the surreal nature of the film.

Melody could have done more with Daniel’s painting. Moonrise Kingdom ran with it. Can you imagine Mrs. Perkins finding a painting by Daniel of her daughter nude in a tub? But then, she might get less excited than Mrs. Latimer would about catching him creating such a painting.

I found the ending satisfying. Melody’s ending is so ambiguous. I love Melody, but it’s Moonrise Kingdom that leaves me believing the kids have a real future together forever. Why does he leave out the window? Is he in fact not supposed to be there? But then, it would be pretty obvious his new foster dad is there to pick him up. As I put it while I was watching MK this time, Melody ends with them running away and you never see the outcome. (Unless you count the day at the seaside as running away.) The meat of Moonrise Kingdom begins with them running away and hijinks ensue. Yeah, it starts well before, when they meet, then become pen pals. I have a soft spot for the pen pal angle. I had a story concept that would incorporate that, based on an actual pen pal. It was my “western hemisphere turns magic” scenario. The hero would go on a quest to meet up with the girl who was his pen pal. On foot, because things like cars wouldn’t work, or would have morphed into creatures. There’s also a lot after they run away. That’s the heart of it, though. Poor, misunderstood kids. Creepy mom, giving 12 year old baby a bath to wash the cooties away.

I forget whatever else I might have meant to say. Melody hijacked Moonrise Kingdom’s post, and time faded my thoughts. I’ve been at this off and on for hours. I did want to note that in my travels yesterday I discovered a move from I think 1974 1973 called Jeremy. It was in relation to Melody stuff, and is an older young romance. High school teens. I haven’t yet watched it, but I pecked at it particularly to see the ballet scene where he sees the girl for the first time and goes all special needs. I related rather painfully, but it’s funny how much like Melody that was. Then there’s the fact he plays cello. But it’s an arts high school, so it’s natural that they have those things. Having read Wikipedia about it, I know that she is new to the school, as Daniel is to the school in Melody. I know the whole thing starts and ends in about a month before she moves away again. I know the relationship gets intense and consummated. I might have seen it along the line when I was younger, and just not had it register the way it might now. I’d have related more to seeing Melody at or before that age.  Actually, that’s a difference between Melody and Moonrise kingdom. If I’d seen MK when I was 10-12, I’d have seen it as fantasy and taken away an entirely different impression. If I’d seen Melody when I was 10-12, I’d have realized I was normal and seen it as something of inspiration and instruction. Speaking of alt history or personal points of departure, if I left absolutely everything the same, but saw Melody in April 1971, my life would have been completely different.

Update:
Note that in Jeremy the girl’s name is Susan (Suzy). Her father can’t remember Jeremy’s name and refers to him as Danny. Amused.

Bushcraft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Dreams

Last night I woke from a dream that took place in the conference room of my old office. Variants of the old office have become one of my standard dream locations. The oddities of what becomes and does not become a dream setting, or influence on dream settings, is the topic of what might become a rambling post.

In the dream that inspired the discussion, I was back there, years after the fact, with some other people I didn’t recognize. There was some problem we were going to fix for the big client that was the reason for the office being where it was. I checked with them that I had the correct password. The rest centered on discussing terms, shades of Bronn, with two scruffy guys and a girl who seemed to speak for them; what they’d do, how they’d be compensated, and whether I’d actually be able to compensate them. Bottom line seemed to be that they’d risk a minor amount of work, but beyond the task at hand, forget it. Perhaps they wanted Highgarden.

The dream reminded me that it’s coming up on an amount of time since I was finished with the last of the last activity around closing that business that will equal the amount of time start to finish for the business. About three years total of the time for the business was before and after the office. I spent a lot of time there and it was pretty personal and distinctive.

It’s not normal for me to have dreams based at places where I worked. It has happened, but it’s been selective.

You would think that places where I spent a lot of time, especially formative time, would be prominent. Places I had no serious connection with or that were transient would not factor into dreams. That can be generally true. It’s just as true that some places appear out of proportion and others appear seldom or never despite being prominent. I have also dreamed completely fictional places that are as real in my memory, from dreams, as real ones.

The house where I grew up is naturally prominent. Often it’s the yard or other surroundings, including some of the outbuildings on the land around us. My father had his business just up the street. The original one was gone when I was 5, but is as likely to be what it is in a dream as any later location. The building that replaced it after a year or so doesn’t appear. That was gone relatively quickly. I sometimes dream about the temporary place where he did business in between. I don’t really dream about the final, longest lasting location that ought to be the most significant. That’s the location he sold when he moved on.

Second only to the house where I grew up is my maternal grandmother’s house. That most commonly appears melded into features of other houses. For instance, last week I faced out of my room in a dream. My room was a bedroom in that house, but the part I was facing was somewhere else. Perhaps the most identifiable other house that is part of dreams now and then is my old friend Zack’s childhood home, razed a number of years ago, but before that one of the oldest in the town. Places of influence include my great grandmother’s house, my aunt’s house that had been my great aunt’s before that, a rest home or something I visited once to see a great aunt, Daphne’s house, Kara’s house, and the home of a family we visited a couple times when I was little. That last is significant because my older brother would later have an enduring crush on one of the girls in that family.

The most unexpected is the shack my father’s mother’s parents lived in, barely in my early memories, visited once or twice when I was at most 4. Dreams set there owe more to the woodsy location by water than to the exact building. The way the building appears is almost like a hobbit hole. It’s cozy, safe, and mostly a single room. Completely rustic.

That one borders on a purely fictional location, however inspired. There’s an actual fictional location that to my memories may as well be real. It’s a yellow house, in the trees on a sort of ridge line between sections of swamp, down a stretch of grassy fire road if you know it’s there. I want to put it in a book if I can, someday. In dreams, I spent time growing up there with my brother and sister. It recurred when I was young, even more often than having a forest fire in the woods across the street from my actual house recurred in dreams. I’d be out there trying to battle flames blazing up to tree crowns with a garden hose.

I used to have school dreams. Not based on the elementary school or high school. Mainly based on the junior high and later the college. Sometimes I’d have dreams in schools with odd architecture, like walkways along the walls of the outsides of the buildings, at second floor level. You’d enter up there. They’d connect to other buildings or ramp to the ground. No rails. Similar to dreams I had when i was a kid in which we’d ride through Boston on roads that ran along the sides of buildings, connected precariously to crumbling brick. The roads through the city now look a lot more like what I was dreaming than they did then, but obviously you’re not driving up flimsy ramps hooked to sides of old buildings.

My big stock location that draws inspiration from others but is not the same as any of the exactly is the giant, creaky old wooden house with endless rooms. The floors are sometimes thin to the point where it seems I’ll fall through. The rooms can be empty, or full of junk. If there are people in the house, usually I am on my own, whether looking for something, exploring, or going to my assigned room. If this building has a street location, it is usually on a street not far from Zack’s house, where something like it doesn’t really exist, and there’s no building I’ve been in.

A variant on that is at a house that is now owned by my cousin. It was owned by her father and, when they were still married, her mother, my father’s sister. Except in the dream it’s bigger, and centers around the cellar, with a rickety floor perhaps 20 feet above the cellar floor. The floor has gaps, ends abruptly, and is very thin. The fall seems deadly. There’s not really a way into the lower part of the cellar from the elevated area above it, which is apparently accessible from the house. In real life, the house is on a hillside sufficient that you walk into the cellar through a regular door at the back. It’s normal, though, with a normal set of stairs up to the main floor of the house. That dream is always terrifying.

Speaking of terrifying, I can never remember what it’s about or why I scream, but the one I commonly have set in the yard where I grew up ends with me screaming “Mom!” Out loud, as I wake up. I don’t know if I am screaming for her, or because of something she’s doing to me. I did have a version once that was inside the house and was definitely her doing something to harm me. Smothering me in my bed, as I recall. Weird.

I once dreamed about an alien stepping up to my car while I was driving around, delivering papers. Vivid. I drove off in a hurry. It had a threatening feel. On the other hand, I once traveled in a beam of light that acted like an elevator. I was going out toward Jupiter and a family of aliens who looked completely human were on there way to Earth when we paused for a brief, friendly chat before continuing in our respective directions. Inspiration from surroundings only goes so far.

Which reminds me I forgot to mention the point of places that never seem to register in dreams. At least, I don’t think I mentioned it. The place where I lived the third longest, in two separate stretches, has been notably absent from dreams, The one time it appeared was such a surprise I made a big deal of it. Somewhere I lived for 11 years doesn’t rate, but a place I visited once becomes part of the architecture of dream houses? Has to be age and impressionability of the brain.

Speaking of youth, perhaps the most significant dream I ever had was of my kids before I’d met their mother. I may already have told this story here. Oh well. I was in an amorphous, gray place where people wait to be. An area cleared into a strip of lawn, gray still swirling behind it. Three kids were there. They were a girl, a girl, and a boy, in that order, but in the dream they were already perhaps 6-8 years in age range. The two younger ones, obviously close, chased each other around playfully while the older one stood and addressed me sternly, chastising me about taking my time and keeping them waiting. Then they stood side by side before me, in what would be birth order. I don’t have a clear memory of exactly what they looked like, but their appearance, relative ages, and personalities as much as you could discern in that short time were close enough to the kids that were waiting in the wings that it was uncanny. As it turned out, the first of the kids was “impossible.” She was conceived at the earliest possible point when she could have been, as if in a rush.

Still Confused, Apparently

I keep thinking of the kids in Melody as being in 5th grade, in US terms. In looking at stats, I ended up reading my own post on ages in Melody and found that I had concluded that they were equivalent to 6th grade. That because they are “First Form” and that is the year when you’d generally turn 12. In the US, sixth grade is the year when you’d generally turn 12. This does fit the story better, in that it was the earliest there were generally strong interests in the opposite sex and kids have girlfriends or boyfriends.

So I’ll have to remember that when I think about the story it’s sixth grade, it’s on the edge of 12, not fifth and 11. That means Tracy Hyde was a year young but looked older (well, her apparent age was highly variable in the film), and Mark Lester was exactly the age (looking on the young side of close enough to it). Jack Wild of course was playing much younger than his actual age, and always looked at least a year older than the age he was attempting to play. Perfectly plausible in the real world and Ornshaw’s apparent circumstances.

I could totally see this happening to me in late 6th grade. Heck, that was when I met my best friend, Zack, who would probably have been a crush had he been a girl. My daughter, a year older than that, has a huge girl crush on her best friend, even though she’s never shown any sign of being interested in anything but boys. Other than that, I still wondered about the 4th grade crush who disappeared, and had a crush on Paula, who was a year and a third younger than me. She’d be the obvious analogue for a scenario based on my life. If I merged her and Carol, I’d have dancing, but she’d have a brother who was a friend in my own grade. There’d be an alcoholic father, but a more stable, larger family otherwise, and more friends. Clearly the idea of writing something based loosely on me has not let go. Not a big market for youth romances, though, notwithstanding the success of Moonrise Kingdom.

But I digress. Writing this was intended to poke fun at my memory and to help reinforce what I had figured out previously so I might not forget it this time.

Trouble Is a Friend

Something triggered the vague memory of a music video I used to watch. I couldn’t remember who it was, but I remembered a bear and an eye, and the thing being partially animated. I also knew that it was associated with my friend Paula, because I discovered the artist through her Facebook likes several years ago. The song seemed fitting for her, and was one of two by the artist that I found I liked a lot. The other one was The Show, which is cute.

Anyway, I started out with something like female singer music video bear eye and got nowhere. Then I remembered she was Australian! Female Australian singers gave me a scrollable horizontal row of artists and there she was, a couple scrolls over: Lenka.

If that hadn’t worked, I might have thought to look at Paula’s profile to see if I could rediscover who it was from her music likes. After Paula’s awesome son died in a tragic work accident maybe three years ago, leaving two babies and a young wife behind, trouble was definitely more of a foe for her. The whole thing still jars me to the core, and I’m not family as she is. I hadn’t even met him, but he was highly regarded and my town rallied behind his family.

I digress and the digression is making me cry. In a way, the whole thing hits close to home because I did have a crush on her in 6th grade, when she was in 5th, and the interest never completely died for all it was never red hot as it was with someone like Ella. She would arguably be the more likely of the two candidates for a Melody-like story based on my own youth. I had planned probably to include an analog to her, and her brother, in my alternate timeline book(s). If my life had gone just slightly differently, she would be one of the more likely people for me to have had kids with at a younger age than what actually happened. (Jeez, that brings up another topic!) As such, the death hit me in a “could have been my kid” way even more than just having a contemporary’s kid I’d never met die might have.

Enough of that. Here is Trouble is a Friend by Lenka:

 

 

How It Should Have Ended

I still haven’t done the Melody blurb rewrite, but thinking about that has left me amused to imagine Melody getting the Honest Trailers treatment, or the How It Should Have Ended (HISHE) treatment. Obviously I can’t readily create videos that would emulate those, even if I came up with content that would make them work, but I can imagine Epic Voice Guy talking about coming for the short skirts on pubescent girls and staying for the story of love, friendship, and childhood anarchy in a world of clueless adults.

As for how it should have ended, that’s a darn good question! It’s possible that the ending is perfect for what the movie strives to do, and it’s just the questions of what happens after that make it feel incomplete. Moonrise Kingdom doesn’t leave us hanging in the same way. But then, Moonrise Kingdom also deals more seriously with the marriage thing, and leaves the kids knowing they can’t really get married, but a ritual won’t hurt. You can see Sam and Suzy ending up together forever. But Sam is more Ornshaw than Daniel. Heck, Suzy is perhaps more Daniel than Melody.

Melody could have ended with each of the lovebirds having it explained to them what marriage is about, even without the sex talk and detail of that part, and about the legalities. They could have been allowed to have a ceremony that would mean something to them and then carry on without there being trauma. If they drifted apart, well, that happens, but they could simply have been particularly young boyfriend and girlfriend until they grew up enough to have it not be unusually young and still loved each other, or grew up enough to grow apart and move on. Perhaps if the adults have sense, when they are rounded up and returned home after the ending, or when they return home themselves upon realizing they’ve nowhere else to go, that might be how it goes. That’s about the happiest after-ending you could have without invoking pure fantasy.

Not what I set out to cover in this post, which is already much longer than I’d expected, but I had further thoughts on the class and family aspects. You have Ornshaw, essentially an orphan, low class but super smart, if sassy. You have Daniel upper/middle class but may as well be an orphan, with a horrible family situation and a mom who is simultaneous neglectful and an overbearing helicopter mom before the term was invented.  Then you have Melody, working class but with a more normal, which is not to say imperfect, family situation. We watch Daniel fall in love with her family and perhaps that makes him love her even more. Arguably the scenes with her father are meant to contrast with Daniel’s father, absent even when present, entirely disengaged. For all Melody finds her dad buffoonish at tea, for Daniel it’s a pleasant switch.

Anyway, How It Should Have Ended: Melody. That would be fun. An honest trailer would be easier, since you could use actual footage and create a voiceover. I wouldn’t begin to be able to animate any HISHE type of video.

When You Never Watched The Movie…

You write a DVD cover blurb that sounds like this utterly ridiculous one from the Melody DVD:

An excellent musical score by the Bee Gees adds appeal to this curious little movie about two ten year olds, Daniel and Melody (Mark Lester and Tracy Hyde) who are completely taken with each other and announce to their parents, in all seriousness, that they plan to get married. This marriage is not planned for the distant future, but as soon as possible. The uproar that is caused when their seriousness becomes clear is not too surprising. Their best friend Ornshaw (Jack Wild) is not too thrilled with their plan either. What makes the film work is that the entire story is told from the children’s point of view in which the grownups’ objections, since they have no relation to the truth of what the children are feeling, come across as silly or inconsequential. This film is a reunion of sorts for Oscar-winning Oliver! co-stars Mark Lester and Jack.

My aim is to rewrite this using the same amount of words/space, so my text could be used in the same spot on a DVD case. Or as a brief description that might actually make the film sound like something you might enjoy seeing. I transcribed from the case to help with that end, but that allows me to post and critique it her. This is vastly more annoying than the reviews you see by people who sound as if they never saw the film.

The music not only adds appeal, but also was incorporated into creation of the story concept and the writing of the script. That phrasing sounds like damning with faint praise.  That gets worse when it is described as “this curious little movie.” That tells me the writer found the movie odd at best and is warning people that there is a good chance they won’t like it.

The kids are not ten. They are eleven. While their age is never outright stated, the school year and time of year makes them 11 or so close as not to matter. This also fits with the ages of the actors, though that is moot in that Jack Wild was 17 and Lesley Roach was 16, yet they were playing kids who were also 11. It’s possible that kids in the grade level could be as old as 12, but few would be lower than 11 by late in the equivalent of American fifth grade. Not that it matters. My equivalent crush with some surprising similarities was around the time I turned 10.

Why do we need to mention Mark Lester’s name twice? Why do we cut off in the middle of Jack Wild’s name, at the end, so he is mentioned one and a half times?

At no time do the kids announce to their parents that they intend to get married. It is probable that both sets find out, but the only ones we see knowing and doing a poor job of talking her out of it are Melody’s. The closest we see Daniel coming to announcing it (which doesn’t mean it didn’t happen off-screen) is when his mother finds the note saying that they are eloping.

Melody and the love between the two kids is central to the story, but not remotely the only part of it. If you could say it’s about one thing, that would be love. But it’s love between friends as well.

About the only thing in the description that is accurate is that the story was told from the point of view of the children. I’m not sure it’s the objections to the marriage idea that come across as silly and inconsequential so much as it is the general incompetence of the adults that makes them come across that way in general.

I might never have paid enough attention to this to tear into it, except my oldest used the description as the basis for her decision not to watch the movie. That was what cause me even to read it. I was horrified.

Moonrise Kingdom

After the kids weren’t eager to watch Melody with me, I bought Moonrise Kingdom in SD digital from Amazon and watched it for the first time. I was a little worried that I had effectively “already watched it” by seeing all the clips and some commentaries online. It’s true I’d seen a lot of it, even key scenes, but there was a lot missing, and order missing. That is, the clips didn’t reflect the order in which things were shown in the film. That was not in exact chronological order. It flashes back. It gets to the goldfish promptly.

I don’t have a detailed analysis or such after one viewing. I can say it’s hardly a “remake” of melody, or even all that close to being anything but homage to Melody. The comparisons I saw made to another film or two that predated Melody make me think it owes more to at least one other. The one thing I saw that was a tiny detail that was a direct tie between the two was the bubbler. That’s water fountain to folks outside the Massachusetts or New England area. That was when he was sneaking off to get to the dressing room where the birds were getting ready for the Noah’s Ark show. As far as we ever know, the first time he sees her is when she turns to look, along with the other girls in bird costumes. And at that, you only see her face framed by the costume. It begs the question of why he seemed to be seeking her out. Much as there are elements unseen or unexplained in Melody, we are left to fill in if we don’t believe that’s Sam’s first sight of Suzy. Sam paints, as does Daniel, but painting was a big factor in at least one of the other movies in the genre. It ended up being a minor factor in Melody.

I was thinking you’d have a somewhat different film if Daniel painted Melody. There was room in the world of Melody for her to have gone to Daniel’s house after school on days when adults weren’t home. Whereas at her house adults were always home. You see her family meet him, but not vice-versa. You see her family reacting with her to the whole marriage thing, but you only see his mother reacting to the note about eloping. Which begs the question of what she knew and when she knew it before then, as well as why he left a note. Besides to give the story an exploding car.

One thing Moonrise Kingdom did was give us a satisfying ending. Sam gets a decent family. He and Suzy get to see each other. They complete each other and are more stable, happier people. Her parents avoid the crisis that her mother’s affair might have caused. Edward Norton might not have to stay single after all, however subtle that scene was. In Melody, the ending is the anarchic explosion of the kids in response to the ridiculous adults. Daniel and Melody run off ambiguously, since where can they go, really. Yeah, in Moonrise Kingdom we can wonder what happens in the future. Do the two kids stay together as they age, becoming lovers and then married for real? Do they become friends who happened to have that adventure than bonded them together?

Moonrise Kingdom, which we never actually see stated on screen as the name of their cove, their land, until the painting at the end gives us the source of the title, has distinct differences due to the kids being basically a year older. In Melody they are 11, notwithstanding some people saying they are 10 and others saying they are 12. If you’re matching the school year and time of year, 11 it is. That explains the difference in maturity and activity. Despite all the publicity pictures, we never see either of them kiss the other on the cheek. They hold hands, maintain as little personal space at times as you might expect, and he puts his arm around her when they sit in the rain after the bad day. Sam and Suzy kiss, French kiss, dance close, reference his male reaction to her, and he “feels her up.” They sleep cuddled together. For all that, it’s still nearly as innocent as Melody.

The adults are messed up, just as they are in Melody. We see the hint of the headmaster having an affair with Miss Fairfax, but they are single so who cares, even if he’s a religious figure and her boss. We see more overtly that the police chief is having an affair with Suzy’s mom. Suzy knows this and her father figures it out. The stylized nature of the film means the scouts are active endlessly. The troop leader is more attached to that than he is to being an adult with a real job.

The scouts are the closest we get to the friends and classmates around Daniel and Melody. Instead of a best friend sidekick to Sam, Suzy is the best friend. We see the scouts come around to helping Sam, and Suzy, rather than hating Sam as they had.

Anyway, I liked it. I liked it a lot. It’s not Melody, but I will also watch it again. Which is why I bought it rather than renting it.

Oh! I just realized as I went to click the categories that a parallel to Melody might be when Sam sleepwalked and set a fire in his foster home’s yard, compared to Daniel setting fire to his father’s newspaper. At least I didn’t sleepwalk when I was a kid, along with wetting the bed. I saved sleepwalking for when I was an adult, and did it a number of times circa the early to mid nineties. This was bad because I could easily have fallen down stairs. I’d get up to go to the bathroom, apparently so sleepy that I didn’t remember having done so, and I’d get turned around on my way to or from. I woke once with my hand on the knob of my stepsister’s door, at the opposite end of the hall and right at the top of the stairs. I woke in the closet of the spare bedroom I used as a computer room. I woke at the door of my room, or by the bathroom door. It was crazy.

Well Then

On my first attempt to get the kids to watch Melody, they are refusing. That’s with them having been intrigued because I had to order it from South Korea, and offering them each a small stipend to watch and give feedback. On a day when they’ve been looking for ways to make money. I think I caught them at a bad time, where they are preoccupied with other things. Worst case, I will requisition the living room one day while they are on school vacation and watch it myself for the sake of seeing it on a full TV screen. Since they will be around, they will no doubt see at least parts of it.

It also didn’t help that the oldest had me shut up and read the description on the jewel case. That decided her. I read it afterward and was appalled. It’s the equivalent of a review that sounds like it was written by someone who hasn’t seen the movie. It’s almost entirely nonsense.

That begs the challenge of what would you say to describe it in about 150 words and make it actually both reasonably accurate, comprehensive, and appealing.

Please Come To Boston

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

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

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

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

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

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

All I Know

On a happier note, I happened to play this after playing my favorite Melody-based music video and thought I would share. It also happens to be way up there in the extensive list of songs I have trouble keeping myself from singing along with. Makes sense, considering that Bridge Over Troubled Water and Scarborough Fair have always been on that list. My daughters are singing Scarborough Fair in their spring chorus concert, so the older one developed enough of an interest in what would otherwise be outside her usual taste that she learned to play it on guitar and was serenading me the other day while talking music as I cooked. Astrophysicist? Rock star? No telling which she may be at this point!

For some reason, I tend to associate The Wedding Song with All I Know, even though it’s Paul Stookie. That is also on the sing along list. It’s notable for playing on the radio when people went to their cars after my friend Julie’s wedding back when we were barely out of high school. Apparently YouTube associates them, too, or knows I do, since that’s how it came to mind.

I’m late for bed now, so I’ll stop here and either carry on in another post or add some of it to this tomorrow. I’ll also double check the links I included later, since I didn’t actually play all of them just now as I was picking them.

What to Say?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ONLY a Year?

It amuses me to read something like this article about a sexual dry spell survey that found nearly 3 in 10 American adults are stuck in a dry spell for nearly a year. OMG!

Obviously my experience has been entirely abnormal and people just don’t wait until they’re 42, only to discover the libido of the partner who deigned to have them isn’t all that after all, and then get abandoned for the rest of their life five years later. Amateurs! Had I not met the wife, which might not have happened without it being online and her being sufficiently aggressive, I fully expected and had accepted that I would be alone and unencumbered by that allegedly normal experience for the rest of my life.

I could write at some length about all the messed up perceptions and feelings I developed from childhood on, and I have to some degree elsewhere here. It’s a horrible thing to do to a young person, convincing them that they are evil for being interested in sex, that having it is wrong, that they are ugly and unappealing, that nobody would ever find them attractive sexually or romantically, that the opposite sex is to be feared or is a source of intimidation, or anything like that. For that matter, it’s a horrible thing to convince a young person that they are hopelessly stupid, incompetent, or will never amount to anything more generally, and the one certainly can’t help the other.

But What’s The Plot?

I’ve been thinking a lot about a variant on the type of story seen in Melody or Moonrise Kingdom, based as a starting point on personal experience and local settings of the time. I’d need to start by putting it into writing as a fleshed out story, not by having grandiose ideas that I could go right to a screenplay. However, it’s helping me to visualize how it might play out on screen. I’d already found myself using that trick for a story set back similarly far in time, with kids suspiciously like my own and a younger me running into each other because science fiction. I’ve even thought of integrating the two ideas to some degree.

I realized that I am not sure I have a point. For me personally it’s nostalgia and what might have been. What is the audience getting from it? What do they get from the others?

I haven’t watched all of Moonrise Kingdom, but I’ve watched clips and seen it dissected and so forth. It’s partly a personality study and shows that the two of them complete and kind of heal each other. They also help the community they are part of… grow up, or something like that. It’s a stylized presentation. It shows the importance of rituals, even if they aren’t legally binding, in a way that Melody never manages or attempts to talk about. It will forever be important to Daniel and Melody, and leave a lasting tie between them, that they were “married.” It doesn’t matter that it’s not legal. It doesn’t matter that it was performed by a friend, in front of a group of friends and classmates. It doesn’t matter that Ornshaw never finished saying “…man and wife.” It doesn’t matter if they remain an item or ever marry for real, though that would make it even more special.

Perhaps it’s about the importance of family and about being understood. I really have to watch Moonrise Kingdom soon. From what I have seen, it looks like I might find it both less charming and relatable, and more coherent than Melody.

Melody is about love, mostly. Love of friends. Puppy love or romantic love, depending how seriously you take it at that age. Some have said the real story is the relationship between Orshaw and Daniel, which tosses out class distinctions (which also exist with Melody, who is a happier middle between the two boys), and which survives Melody, despite having been threatened by the girlfriend coming between them.

It’s about how serious love between the kids is, to the kids, in the face of adults being old miseries. It’s about how ridiculous the adults seem, to the kids, and in fact are more objectively. Yes, it’s a nostalgia trip to when many of us felt that way, looked through that window and saw That Girl who stopped our world in its tracks. Or had That Boy look at us like that and found ourselves taken with the fact that he was “quite a nice boy, really.”

I’m still not sure I see the rebellion as being anything but support for the rest of the story. It did notice, speaking of little details, and forgot to mention that at the end it’s not the groups of boys and girls, but a group of all the kids, celebrating the same end, having wanted the same thing. Maybe I’m missing something.

Incomplete, inaccurate, or varying in mileage as my offhand conclusions may be, they represent something that’s a takeaway from the films. I need not only a climax to the story, more dramatic than boy likes girl, girl reciprocates, they hang out, things get in the way, they run off to the woods or something, they are found, people are sorry they picked on poor Rudolph., but also something learned or demonstrated. Or I’m over-analyzing and could have been an English major instead of an accounting major. Accounting is never analytical, after all.

This is the part I find myself thinking about now. Characters, including supporting characters, their motivations, their interactions, and the outcome and lessons of it all.

Permission Granted

It’s a nice change to sign a permission slip that isn’t also asking for money for a field trip. Going to a math team meet is free. Only the eldest, this time. The middle one can’t go because the people who scheduled the meet (between several school districts in the region) picked a day when 7th grade would have MCAS testing. The youngest won’t be able to be on the team until next year, if he wants to disrupt playing Fortnite by having any activities like that. Presumably he’ll be in the advanced math program in 7th and 8th grades like the other two.

Of course, I was excited the last time a permission slip did require money because they were accepting cash. Traditionally it’s money order. Period. No checks. No cash. That was for a mock senate thing at Kennedy Library, which the eldest enjoyed very much after being dubious.

We never went on this many things when I was in school. Each year they have each had at least one field trip. When I was in elementary school we went to Plimouth Plantation and to Boston Museum of Science. Otherwise I think we walked to the post office for a tour once. Past that, nothing grade-wide. I went with some of the top kids from horticulture class a couple years to the annual flower show in Boston, and I went one year to the state FFA convention for a couple days.

But then, the kids, at least in the schools mine have been in, do much more and harder work than we ever did. I first encountered that with my nephews, long before I ever had kids, and in yet another school system. They were doing things as early as elementary school that I’d not seen until as late as college, and in one case never. That was just the slice of it I saw from being around once in a while. I’m pleased with how well they handle it, and how self-propelled they are. We always say we’re raising adults, not children.

Mick Jagger

Seeing the news – if it’s not an elaborate April Fool’s joke – that Mick Jagger needs heart valve surgery made me think that he needs Camille Davis (Muriel) to kiss him and make him all better.

Speaking of Muriel, I have only met one Muriel in my entire life, at my first job, in late 1979 or the beginning of 1980. I liked her a lot, and loved the name. She was, compared to me at the time, a much older woman.

I never thought of using the name for one of my kids. It’s not ideal with the actual surname, but wouldn’t be ridiculous. The wife vetoed Wendy. I didn’t come out and suggest Karen. Kaylee would have fit, but we weren’t sure we wanted to bandwagon onto a Firefly name. Melody would have been ideal, had the name come to mind at all. It would have flowed better with the same middle name and the surname. She has an angelic voice and writes her own songs, so the music association would fit. I didn’t realize how much I liked the name Molly until later. It would also have worked, if not fit as ideally. Middle name would have needed to be different. But I digress.

I tend to associate the names Muriel and Ariel with each other. There was an obscure song when I was near the end of high school that was named Ariel. It seems to be a more common name than Muriel, and of course it was Disneyed. I know one Arielle. Same name, variant spelling.

The M thing is something I noticed in passing recently. Melody. Muriel. Maureen. Peggy is usually short for Margaret. That just leaves Rhoda the odd one out. None of that was probably intentional, but certainly when writing a story you get lots of leeway in selecting names. It’s like having a bunch of babies!

Joking aside, I hope Mick has successful surgery and recovers well. He’s in good shape. He has to be to do the things he does on stage.

Little Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll Have a Screenplay Yet!

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

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

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

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

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

Spam

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

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

Granny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sequel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peggy Swailscroft

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go on, Tom. Dance with her.

No, you won’t get me out there, mate.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing Lasts Forever But The Earth And Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DVD

I ordered a region-free Melody DVD that is supposed to have the option of English or Korean subtitles. It’ll take a while to get here. It’ll be nice to see it in a crisp resolution at a larger format than YouTube. Since I learned when trying to watch the Bohemian Rhapsody DVD my brother gave me that the DVD drive on my computer is barfing, I’ll either need to get something to watch it with, or use the Xbox. Since I have to do that anyway, I have a crazy plan to make the kids watch it and get their reactions. I figure I’ll give them a small stipend to get their cooperation. It’s nothing they’d ever sit still for otherwise. We can watch while their mother isn’t home, and I can report what they have to say about it here. We’ll see how that goes. I’m curious to see what the DVD might have for extras besides the movie itself, and whether there’s anything I haven’t already seen online.

Free Range Kids

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recess

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ages In Melody

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Concerts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Math

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It takes more than genetics, though.

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

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

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

Dear Walmart

Thanks so much for discontinuing cheese bread and pepperoni cheese bread. I used to buy it almost every time I went in. At least when I went to Paramount Drive. Other stores either didn’t carry it in the first place, or didn’t make it correctly. It turns out it was so popular in the Paramount Drive store that the bakery kept ordering the stuff and making it after it was initially discontinued, up until they couldn’t even order the ingredients any more.

My kids are not amused.

Dear Dove

After trying other shampoos, my daughter discovered Dove Absolute Curls. It was perfect for her hair.

After buying it a few times, I went to get it again and it was gone. It has apparently been discontinued.

Thanks a lot! Between companies like you, Utz (discontinued their amazing Salt & Pepper chips), and Walmart (discontinued their yummy cheese bread and amazing pepperoni cheese bread), the kids are becoming as used to this happening as I have over a lot more years.

Update:

This ended rather well. I went looking for something that was for curls and bought an Aussie product made for curls. She loves it. It works at least as well, and “smells better.”

Not Quite 11 Years Old In 1971 But…

Brits being unable to identify the vagina seems like it fits with the innocence depicted in Melody. Other details in there too, although Chef would be proud that they know where to find the clitoris.

Not that everyone in Melody is completely innocent, given the strong presence of girly magazines and nude pictures, even if Daniel having one was completely innocent of any sexual connotations. The boys, especially Ornshaw, weren’t entirely innocent when trying to sneak at least one of them into the girly show. It’s just that they are all still on the edge of childhood and being in love doesn’t make them think “hey, let’s get naked together.” Give them a couple years, if they’re still able to see each other and he still loves her for more than a couple weeks of sixth year.

Of course, given that these days everyone calls the vulva a vagina, maybe it’s not just the Brits who are confused.

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.

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.