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, be we are always me-centric. It couldn’t have been too much longer, since the road eventually was paved. On the other hand, when it was paved, it got some nasty speed bumps. I don’t remember them delivering after it was paved, and that was probably not later than 1973.

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

Marriage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That Was Fun

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a party at Naomi’s mother’s house and I went with the middle child, who was interested in trying the expected Middle Eastern food. The youngest was upset when we got home that I hadn’t invited him, which I did weeks ago to a firm no. He assumed we’d had awesome food, which we did, but not from his perspective. He felt better when I listed off what we’d eaten. The one who went loved it. Bonus, there was lemon cheesecake! She loves cheesecake more than almost anything. She had to spend a couple hours being bored while Naomi, Sally and I gabbed, though she enjoyed watching the little kids and tiny dog playing. She also  got a piece of lava rock to bring home, from Naomi’s stepfather, who was enthusiastic about her interest in science generally and geology particularly.

There were a bunch of assorted relatives there, and some adorable little kids. A late arrival, no idea the relation, had a couple more, but older, like first grade. My eyes locked on that woman before she was in the door, and I had to make a point of not staring, she was so stunning. Basically a ginger. She seemed super nice to boot. If I were younger and prone to those serial crushes, she’s exactly the sort of scenario where her walking into a room might change everything.

I ate way too much, mostly because of the shrimp someone brought, with a dip based on mayo and Greek yogurt, seasoned with wasabi and I forget what else. There were also pita chips, pita pieces, amazing spinach dip, awesome cheese spread, hummus, feta cubes, olives that were actually good – my second encounter ever eating an olive and finding I liked it, crackers, cheese, baked ziti with sausage meat included in it, and fantastic salad. Besides cheesecake, there were good chocolate chip cookies, and squares with chocolate chips, coconut, and walnuts. The kid who thought he’d missed out *might* have tried the pasta dish and not much else. Well, there were potato chips, so he could have had those.

It was actually hard to leave because the conversation really got rolling, about books and such. But it was time to go so they could wind down and we could settle in for the night. I could be later, but there’s school in the morning.

One thing that’s funny is Naomi still thinks of me as the go to person for computer questions, even though she is pretty clueful herself. She’s gone through more computer antics in the past ten years than I have. Mostly I have things that work or don’t, and if they don’t, I somehow get something that does. Since we went broke, I spent a lot of time using hand-me-down machines. This one is a $239 refurbished Dell compact desktop, sort of thing I wouldn’t have been caught dead using back in the day. The old machine is a hand-me-down laptop that I retrieved files from for someone before the hard drive died. That was over 10 years ago, and it sat for a long time before I confirmed they didn’t want it back. I had to replace the drive and, it turned out, a bad memory stick. It got full and slow enough I needed better. I’d used it as a clamshell with keyboard, mouse and monitor all attached. Before that I had an old laptop someone else gave me. It had no disks and was kind of a mess, but I couldn’t reinstall it or fix some of the deep down settings. My last good computer I built died before that and I couldn’t keep anything I had around working reliably enough. So we talked about some of the stuff she’s been through and things she’d told herself to ask me about. Her best computer was her first one, which I’d helped her get from what turned out to be a local dealer at a computer show, back when those were a thing. We later used that dealer to supply computers for the business, until I started building them all myself.

Visiting Naomi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Call First!

I have no memory of how it started and developed, but somewhere along the line the kids developed a system of “calling first” to be served supper. Second, sometimes, if they miss being first. Usually calling first is prefaced by asking me what’s for supper.

They even have honorary first. Usually this applies to the fussy eldest, when it’s one of the things she loves best. They are remarkable about deciding and observing this courtesy. Sometimes I decide this as a practical matter. If I make pasta and sauce, and one kid only eats it with butter, parm, and finely grated cheddar, the butter melts better if it’s still piping hot, so first it is.

There’s no reason not to go along with it, but it’s traumatic if I didn’t hear whoever called first first, and serve food to the second one who called first.

Sometimes when one of them says “I call first,” I will tell them it’s polite to call first, you should never just drop in. That gets old, as repetitious dad jokes do.

Sometimes I mess with them, if it’s the right thing. I’ll scoop three bowls of darned if I can remember right now and put them on the counter for the three of them to come grab. Not chili, because that requires embellishment. For that matter, less embellishment can mean you’re first because then it’s out of the way quick and the ones that take more time can be the focus. One bowl of chili is just beef chili with no beans, made for the kid who can’t stand the texture of the beans and, since I’m making it anyway, preferred by the wife. One bowl of regular chili get a pile of grated cheese on it. Another bowl of chili gets pile of grated cheese, a spoon or two of sour cream, and a side of bread and butter. One burger gets a bun, some ketchup, a burger, preferably with as much of the cheese that fries on the pan as possible, and more ketchup on top. One burger goes on a bun and the kid adds a little ketchup. Please none of the cheese that fried onto the pan! Another burger gets mayo and ketchup, the burger, sometimes sauteed onion if we’re making those, and more ketchup on top. If there’s lettuce and tomato but no fried onion, that third one might have those on it as well. That’s the case that matches mine, except I also add mustard sometimes, so I make those together. the wife assembles her own.

If anyone wants seconds of whatever we’re having, they come help themselves. Sometimes I’m surprised by what is or isn’t left when I go to put away leftovers.

Anyway, that’s one of the ways in which the household, as most presumably do, has developed its own culture, driven in part by the kids. There are always inside jokes or references we all get or use for shorthand, but that nobody else would understand.

Movies

So Captain Marvel is out and the youngest would love to go. I kind of wanted to, and having not personally watched the, to me, unknown actress playing the hero spout off SJW nonsense, I could ignore that. It actually comes down to money. I’m still not out of the slowest time of year, and running behind until the tax refund hits. I skipped Aquaman! I really wanted to see that! And it was reportedly good, which Captain Marvel isn’t as much. I skipped taking the boy to Spiderverse, again money, and I wouldn’t have even considered it until it became clear it was spectacularly good.

I’m torn, because it does set her up for Endgame. But that’s another concern. The wife is wondering if throwing her into Endgame creates a deus ex and diminishes the merit built by the existing MCU heroes as we made our way through the current phase.

I’ve missed other movies and not had it ruin things that came after, so it’s not the end of the world. I never saw Winter Soldier, Dark World, or Ragnarok. I’ve been told that two of the three are must see.

On the other hand, I am eager to see Shazam. That’s not something I would ever have expected to say, but it looks fantastic. There will be Homecoming and a new Wonder Woman this year. I’ll have to see Star Wars 9, regardless of the issues with the previous one. I didn’t hate Solo as much as some people did, but hey, why would I. Heh.

Captain Marvel, though? I want to want to see it. Probably won’t in the theater, though. I had no idea Brie Larson was an Oscar winner for Best Actress along the way. As noted above, I had never heard of her when she was cast. Samuel L. Jackson has been one of my all time favorites since the first time I saw him, in the fantastic film The Negotiator with Kevin Spacey, also a huge favorite starting then, now sadly a pariah. It could be worth seeing just for Jackson, and the de-aging effects.

Dear Utz

It was kind of rude to discontinue your best variety of potato chips a while back. Salt & Pepper Chips were the main flavor, of any brand, that my fussy oldest child would eat. Every time I think about buying your excellent honey barbecue chips, I tend to remember the discontinued chips and skip it.

It Goes So Fast

On my way home, I was driving up an adjacent street that is one of the ones where the kids trick or treat, and remembering that reminded me of how hard it hit me the past couple years that the kids stop being little so quickly. Worse, I feel like there was a time warp from when they were truly little kids and quite dependent to the time when they were, for all practical purposes, largely independent teenagers. The youngest hasn’t even turned 12 yet, but he was “a teenager” when he was ten, from this perspective.

There were the years of walking around with them, trick-or-treating, or even carrying the youngest ones. Then suddenly they were entirely on their own. It seems like the blink of an eye. Three consecutive years of kindergarten and then another five until the final one would complete elementary school seemed interminable… until suddenly the end of it was upon us and the oldest only had another year before high school. Then it didn’t seem so long after all.

It seemed like taking them to playgrounds would always be a thing. Suddenly they were big and not interested in that any more, and I regretted the times, including the last time or two they’d have wanted to go, when I didn’t feel like it, or the car couldn’t be driven.

I worry about all the things we didn’t do, the fun things, because of money, and them getting old enough not to care or to be adults in their own right without any of it happening. It’s not like I mean taking them to Disney World and spending a fortune. I mean taking them to a relatively local place everyone here goes to when they’re a kid, like Canobie Lake Park. I see that it’s $36 each and I’m horrified, but maybe we’ll go anyway, but maybe next year…

It flies by. And I may be too old to spoil the grandkids instead.

Storytelling Part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Musta Been The Wrong Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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