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.

Zack Songs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

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.

Song Associations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

My Melody Girls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Filming Is Hard

Or, to quote my daughter, “acting is hard.” I’ve been relating my limited experience in the filming of a video with children circa 11 years old to the challenges faced in filming Melody with, part of the time, hundreds of children. The core contingent centered on the age my daughter was in summer 2017.

My daughter’s 5th grade teacher was going to be on a network TV show, again, and they were pushing her as something of a superstar in the reality competition involved. Make people want to watch by promoting her. Add human interest by showing stuff about her. They had previously filmed on an entirely normal classroom day. That was awkward when my daughter had an inconveniently timed dental appointment and had to be extracted from the room without disrupting filming.

After the school year ended, I got a call from the teacher, inviting my daughter to be in a video being filmed on an upcoming Saturday. Well, of course!

Little did we know it would be a long, grueling day of takes and more takes, between waiting for setup of scenes, for under a minute that actually aired, with my daughter visible for perhaps a few seconds.

Most of the kids were not from the actual class the teacher had during the school year just ended. My daughter was tall for her age. About half the kids were children of the principal. Kidding, but a few were, and they ranged pretty young. There wasn’t an effort to go for authenticity so much as teacher plus kids. My daughter was sidelined somewhat due to her height and apparent age compared to the norm among the bunch of kids involved.

The first part was a faux classroom scene, which none of the parents there were able to witness being filmed. It was in the actual class, but rearranged and lit as a set for the video. My daughter wasn’t really in that at all, because they clustered the little kids in the area where the action took place. It was like a transformation of the teacher to something else, bounding across the desks, if I recall the details correctly.

The rest was basically a music video, in the hall and then outside. That’s the part where my daughter could be seen if you knew to look. The teacher and the kids around her were ad hoc choreographed with different moves, props and lighting, coming down the hall to music.

Outside there were scenes filmed of action on playground equipment, then in the parking lot. On the playground equipment it was action sequences. My daughter would have figured prominently in one bit, but she didn’t match the size of the other two kids, so they swapped her out. Then she was kind of at the end of the line because she was too tall in another scene. Kind of hard when you’re hanging from bars but your feet touch the ground. She was taller than the teacher, even then. Now she’s 5′ 4 1/4″ at the dawn of 13, and her brother is 1/4 inches behind her all of a sudden, six months shy of 12. That part featured the use of colored smoke effects.

Finally, there was a victory scene of sorts, where the kids mobbed around the teacher in the back parking lot of the school, cheering and throwing colorful dust, like powdered chalk, up in the air, then they all walked off into the distance at the cameraman was rolled after them on a little cart.

It was grueling, even just watching and waiting, let alone being in the cast of kids, directed to do this or that different ways over and over and over. I found it fascinating. There was a young guy who was the director. Totally looked the part. There were a few assistants or people with defined roles, like the cameraman and the art director. There was one young woman, kindly yet stern, super attractive, consummately professional, whose job seemed to be resolving problems and doing anything necessary to make things happen. Sometimes this involved the tool belt she wore. Sometimes this involved fetching things or helping the art person.

The kids were each supposed to bring a sedate outfit and a flamboyant or colorful outfit. With my daughter, it was hard to tell the difference! It started with sign in, so to speak, at a table up on the stage in the auditorium. I had to give them a release form and they reviewed the outfits. Then we waited, even before anything at all started. They gave something of an orientation. They served lunch for everyone, Subway, and had lots of snacks and candy. It took until lunch for the initial art, the classroom scene, to finish shooting. During the break, the kids all got shoelaces that lit up, worn turned on in part of what shot afterward. Those they got to keep.

It was easily supper time before we were done. Then that was it. We had to wait and hope to catch it when it aired or when someone posted it. As I said, it didn’t amount to much, after all that work and what they spent to send the crew there to produce it. I got some bits on video and in pictures, but we were barred from posting any of that online until after it had aired. I haven’t gone back and looked at any of it almost since then. Nothing earth shattering.

As my daughter would say, “So, that was a thing that happened.” It certainly didn’t inspire her to want to go into acting. Shy or not, last year she got up on stage and sang a cappella a song that she wrote, but that didn’t require acting or take after take while following a director’s instructions.

Now take that day and make it a feature film featuring kids. A lot of kids. The core cast of kids for Melody exceeded the number in that video shoot, let alone the hundreds of extras employed for the crowded scenes. The child stars may have considered it “a romp,” but it’s still work for all involved.

Being Forward

In the video on the making of Melody, Tracy Hyde talks about similarities and differences between her and the character. For instance, they both love animals (though we only see this evidenced with the goldfish), which fits with Tracy having ended up running a boarding kennel which can be interpreted in some mentions to have been the family business.

She says that one difference is that she would not be so aggressive in getting a boyfriend, but instead waits for them to come to her. Is Melody particularly forward or aggressive, or does she merely make it obvious she is receptive, rather than being mysterious and letting Daniel flail around until maybe, just maybe, he does or says exactly the right thing?

Watching again, I can see how you could interpret her relatively assertive actions as being quite forward. To me they aren’t. If a girl actually wanted me, she pretty much had to bash me over the head and drag me away. It had to be utterly unambiguous, more so than should be necessary. It’s as if I were female instead of male.

What does Melody do? First encounter she smiles, which could be seen as encouraging, but is also just a pleasant acknowledgment that he is looking at her so intently and is in an awkward position yet trying. In assembly she just stares back with a serious look, or we don’t see a smile, since one appears in a still later. In the music room, she has no idea what to do. Make small talk? So she starts practicing and he makes it a duet. She smiles with her eyes while playing recorder. None of it is especially forward or demonstrative yet. In the cafeteria, the two look at each other when he gets redirected to a seat with the boys, but I don’t see strong encouragement there.

At the dance, she puts herself on display and pointedly keeps eyeing him. That seems like flirty encouragement, but it would be easy to ignore or to dismiss as too weak if you’re like I was. Or am. Obviously we get to see how mutual it has become then, after the dance. And agreeing to dance, well, that’s not being forward. He asked her. She just made it easy. As much so as is possible in the circumstances, anyway. Having danced, there’s something established, at least as a strong possibility. Seeking her out would have been reasonable. Seeking him out is not unreasonable on her part.

That said, in my experience, the stairway scene is forward. For a girl. It’s unambiguous enough, even for me, or should be. She waits, knowing somehow exactly where he will be after school is out. She adopts a bold stance, planted at the foot of the stairs, unmistakably wanting him to go with her. This is preceded by her having smiled at him in his post-beating discomfort.

He and Ornshaw start to walk past. This is painful to me, because I told myself aloud when watching it that I’d have been the idiot who went with my friend and then kicked myself forever. In doing so, I’d have hurt her deeply and that would have been it, so forget the crush buddy. She says nothing, just gives him, them, looks. Ornshaw does all the the talking. Danny walks over to her. They start to walk away and eventually run as Ornshaw gets more and more distraught.

That’s it. Now they are an item. That was the extent of her aggression. She planted herself in the right place at the right time and didn’t make it easy for him to pass on the opportunity. That’s not aggressive! That’s smart. That’s helpful. That’s giving the guy some feedback for goodness sake.

I very nearly didn’t date at all. When I got married, I can’t say it was to someone I’d dated, because we met online and knew we planned to marry before we met in person. That may be what was required for that to be possible for me, ever. So perhaps my interpretation of what is aggressive or passive on the part of a girl is colored excessively by my traditional shyness and timidity. When I called my wife on the phone for the first time, she sounded so offputting when she answered, I almost hung up and ran away. Speaking of why so serious. That didn’t have to involve a serious expression. It involved a serious tone. I took it to be something akin to anger, or a mood with which I would not want to deal. It was an incredibly close thing. And that after she had done nothing but encourage me, right down to sparking the whole flirtation online.

Daphne wouldn’t date me and she was the one I pursued most aggressively. We hung out a lot and actually did things as friends, and eventually she allowed me to take her on “a date.” Which was weird as a result of it not being real. She humored me.

One of my Melody-like experiences, in college, was sort of a mutual stumbling together without real aggression by either of us, but Maddie was closer to that than most girls ever were, and essentially asked me on the first thing that passed for a date. Maybe writing “go away” directed at me on a page in her notebook in accounting class was a form of being forward.

Later in college, but associated with my job, Layla asked me out and was entirely in charge. I would never have noticed her, let alone anything else, even after we were chatting amiably when she’d come into the store. By comparison, a much prettier, blond haired young woman hinted at me and it went right over my head until an older guy I worked with pointed out that she had basically just asked me out and I was an idiot. And that was the only shot I would ever get.

After college I ended up being a wedding date with Vera, who worked with my sister. She asked me. I hung out with her some, but that was really the only thing that could be called a date. There was no spark.

Some 14 or 15 years later came the wife. Even in her case I could have wiggled away and it could have been nothing, but she was the most assertive. That was what it took. I was ready never to be married or have kids, or for that matter, a relationship worth the name. I had given up cold turkey on the serial crush addiction and was learning to be myself, alone. Which sounds like a funny way to put it, but in my head I had the prospect of not being alone, before then. I was learning to accept it wouldn’t be otherwise.

Actually, counter-example to the wife, same time. There was a girl I always called Donut Girl. She worked in a donut shop near my office. Apparently she’d had her eye on me, seeing me go in semi-regularly to buy a couple donuts and iced coffee. One day she jovially said the two donuts I always ordered, getting my attention. Butternut coconut! Is that being forward? She was adorable. Might have been even younger than the wife would be, but probably close. I was aware of her after that, but I was never able to pick up the ball and close the deal. Presumably I could totally have asked her out, given/received numbers, whatever it is people do. If she was being forward, and was really interested, well… she wasn’t forward enough. Is that better?

My wife, since we have had issues over time, has told me many times that I would have no problem finding someone. No. I haven’t changed. I am still nearly that shy and I still have no idea how people go about dating. Without that effort the other way, I’d remain pretty hopeless. Having been married hasn’t made me bolder, and hasn’t made me feel more appealing. It’s crazy.

Where I Went Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melody and Religion

After getting hooked on the movie, I looked up the differences between US and UK schools. Remarking about them to my oldest yesterday, she proudly already knew, and refers to her grade level appropriately when communicating with British people. This isn’t the post on that topic, but I also noted that religion was incorporated into the schooling. This wasn’t just a fictional thing. In the making of Melody video, Mark Lester talks about his on set schooling (and they also talk with his tutor) and lists subjects he studies. One of them is scripture.

The headmaster is obviously a religious figure, whether that is normal or not, and the first class you see any of the kids in is one he teaches on religion. It’s meant to be, and is, very funny. It shows how frustrating the kids can be, how impotent or incompetent the teachers can be, and the mischievousness of some of the kids. It’s also one of the points in the movie where I could not make out some of the words, or heard them wrong. I couldn’t distinguish “matzos” and eventually saw what it was online, where someone else asked.

In my case, between the accent and the sound quality of the video, when he spoke in that class I heard “pick up thy beard and walk.” Every time. Since it was completely nonsensical, I actually looked it up and was able to determine it was bed: “pick up thy bed and walk.” Even I not only could gather the biblical context, but also was pretty sure I’d heard it before as a child. I got dragged to church with varying regularity until I rebelled for good at 13. I still love the actual church. An ancestor was the first minister when it was built, my grandfather was sextant and a lay speaker, and the building is striking. I used to help clean it, and mowed the lawn when it had one, and felt reverent toward it. Had crushes on a couple of the girls there, too. One of those let me in free to see ET when she saw me in line for the movie when she worked at the theater years later.

I don’t know if religion is a universal subject in British schools, but both religion and education can be tools of government control of or influence on the population, so putting the two together would make sense from that perspective.

Later there’s an “assembly.” Plot-wise, it is a chance to get Melody and Daniel in the same place at the same time, since they don’t spend time in the same classrooms except by accident, as when he fell in love with her. It helps cement that he is interested, and lets a bunch of the other kids in on what’s happening in the process. Another place where Ornshaw is instrumental. Plus it gives us the lovely picture of her, turned to look across the room, smiling at him, to show while he races and To Love Somebody plays. We don’t see the smile in the footage used in the actual scene. She just looks serious.

In the assembly, the teachers all gather up on the platform in front and the headmaster starts calling kids up for the sorting hat. Wait, wrong movie! And no, that’s not a young Ron Weasley we see ever so briefly at the dance, but it sure could be. The headmaster, once he has silence, has them open their hymnals to a hymn number he can’t remember without his glasses, and starts leading them in song in his lovely voice. James Cossins vies with Roy Kinnear for my favorite adult actor of the film. His name always makes me think of Jamie Cousins, though. She was a girl in my grade. Never knew her, but a friend, more of a friend of a friend who was part of the proverbial gang, had a huge crush on her.

I finally got around to looking up the hymn they sing. I may well have heard it in church in my youth, but I’d never remember that. I’d caught enough of the words, even beyond the first three in triplicate, to find it easily. The song is Holy, Holy, Holy. Logically enough. It’s about the trinity, thus the triplicate holy.

Turns out it’s used for Trinity Sunday. What the heck is that? Now I know that’s the first Sunday after Pentecost. But what the heck is that? That’s the fiftieth day after the resurrection. It’s observed seven weeks after Easter, so it also moves, and that means Trinity Sunday moves.

All of which goes back to my looking at the timeline of the film. Not that the hymn couldn’t be used any time of the year, and not that the assembly is on a Sunday, but given the time of year the film obviously occurs, they would have to be near Trinity Sunday at the time. In 1970, the year Melody was Filmed, Trinity Sunday was May 23. In 1971, the year of release, it was June 6.

I previously surmised the assembly to have been on a Thursday. I might have expected it to be a Friday or Monday, if adhering to a weekday near the Sunday being observed, but this might all be nothing. It could simply be that they periodically have whole school or whole grade level assemblies that incorporate religion and/or other purposes. Still, the film is basically May/June. That’s when a lot of filming fell, when they are in the school year, etc. Someone could have been thinking it through in that much detail, or it could simply have been a famous and somewhat catchy hymn to employ. Given that nothing seems accidental in this film, though I might question some details or have done them differently, I lean toward it being intentional.

The only other things we see of religion are Daniel’s parents and their friends making fun of the devout, at least the Catholic ones, and Ornshaw stumbling over and skipping the finer details of the marriage rites in a prayer book.