My Vampire, My Flapper

It has been one of those years. Time moving in fast intense spurts followed by a slow circling. It is the slow days that have gone by the fastest because when the days resemble each other they are stored as one Blursday.

The threads come together in a tapestry. Movies are dominating this cycle.

Watching Nashville, I decide Altman likes tall skinny brunettes. The bartender is called Trout, his real name is Kilgore.

Heelots, the Colonel called them. It ain’t that different from Helots.

Great cinematography. Dustin Hoffman is irritating. The awkwardness is what would be felt, not acted. Or so my experience has been.

The Graduate leads to Girl Shy. Don Quixote becomes dreams of Don Juan. A Cracker Jack puzzle. The surprise should have been a whistle. I keep renaming the movie Shy Guy.

95 years to make it to the public domain. There was a time when these movies where contemporary. I even saw Nashville at the cinema. It was confusing to the thirteen year-old brain.

Caricature?

I am enjoying finding the questions more than finding the answers. In other words, I am enjoying reinventing the wheel. Or, in other other words, using a cliché, it’s about the journey.

Street of Shame starts with a pan of Tokyo. It looks nothing like the Tokyo in today’s films. It reminds me of the shots of 30’s Los Angeles.

The solicitation scenes get me questioning. Was (is?) this aggressive attack of prospects the norm in Japan? It is possible; Almost any male in the neighbourhood is there on purpose.

I think back to the European red-light districts I have walked through. It’s all relatively passive: a change in position, a come hither hand sign. Then again, the ones I have seen are famous, tourist attractions.

I recall a walk on San Francisco’s Broadway in the 70’s. Anytime we slowed down near one of their doorways we would be greeted by touchy-feely women attempting to entice us to get a “massage.”

A door to the movie is unlocked. The actions of the Yoshiwara women are not that different from those in San Francisco. The aggressive desperation is the prostitute’s point of view; The scenes are shot looking out from inside the brothel.

I feel quite the cinephile. I see appeals to a noble history: a straw of dignity for the sex workers, a justification for the brothel owners. The archetypes exploring, without answering, the policeman’s question about the impending ban on prostitution. The movie is in black & white and, for those directly concerned, none of the answers are.

I do not know much about Japanese culture other than the general interest stories and occasional film. I know even less about the culture of post-war Japan. I am still wondering about the degree of exaggeration used in the caricatures.

On Contempt

Contempt is hard to hide.

Shawn is blithely butchering the quote and putting it into Churchill’s mouth to justify the justness of his argument turning the saying into an ideology.

There is a study that shows contempt is a good indication of a doomed relationship.

Pedantry is rarely the cause and often the straw.

I get angry at denied errors in logic. It is a rejection of the rules of debate. So is anger. I have learned to keep my mouth shut, to disqualify myself.

I can remember my lesson as long as the pedant in me is not triggered. I recall the facts to soothe the craving to correct them.

The quote is from Anselme Batbie, a nineteenth century French politician who had seen the end of monarchy, the short-lived Second Republic, and the longer lasting Second Empire. He spoke not of socialists growing up to be capitalists, nor of liberals growing up to be conservatives, nor of revolutionaries growing up to be supporters of the status quo. He used republicans and royalists as the signposts of evolving from a generosity of heart to a soundness of mind.

It was an observation, made in the early days of the Third Republic, meant to explain the evolution of Edmund Burke‘s political views. I can easily imagine it mirroring the changes in Batbie‘s views about each of the changes in the governance of France he lived through.

I have my own apolitical interpretation of the quote, the nugget that makes it so popular; Idealism versus rational beliefs. At twenty the heart rules, at thirty wisdom should be driving.

Shawn is now mindlessly droning about bleeding heart liberals caring more for the criminal’s difficult childhood instead of the victims. He wants to throw away the key. Says it would solve the crime problem.

Another camel, another straw.

Studies show that incarceration doesn’t work as a deterrent; Which makes sense; The punishment is not immediate. Humans are optimistic, quick to believe they will find a way to avoid pain.

My mental digressions have additional qualities: I appear thoughtful, facts are unemotional, and relationships are maintained.

The easiest way to hide contempt is to avoid experiencing it.

A Perfect Match

What does it say about me when the first thing I think of is a phosphorous tipped small wooden stick?

The answer lies in how I would answer that question about someone else: a person who lives in a place where matchbooks aren’t a common thing.

I live in clues; resolving them, giving them.

The ultimate in cool was lighting a strike-anywhere match on the zipper of your jeans. It took skill to strike it without leaving the head in the zipper’s teeth. Then button-fly jeans became cool.

For paper matches it was the one-handed fold-the-match-back light. The difficulty was the short strike, which meant more pressure was needed. And, because even in a single matchbook there is a lot of variance in the match heads, regularly showing off meant walking around with a black specked callus in the middle of your right thumb.

The strike-anywheres were more expensive and harder to find. If you wanted real ones you had to look for the boy scout approved waterproof ones. Otherwise, despite what the sales clerk was affirming, you were probably just getting a wooden safety match.

Nobody could figure out how to light one cowboy-style. The consensus opinion was that they were using their chaps. Nobody knew that modern denim was softened.

Elliot Gould’s Philip Marlowe used strike-anywheres. The walls of his bedroom were missing the expected scars.

Are You Currently Still With Your High School Sweetheart?

The question destabilizes him.

It’s been forty years and three countries since he last saw Linda. They connected on social media but her English is rusty and his Spanish more so. She had moved back to Mexico City and finished her high school there. From what he could tell, she had stayed there and had children who now have children. The other pictures are of her with girlfriends.

Sweetheart is not the right word. Girlfriend. There was nothing romantic about their getting together. He had decided he needed a girlfriend and she was the hottest available. The sentiments were sincere; he had learned a lot of Spanish, visited her twice (it was during his second visit that she had said that the long distance thing wasn’t working) but it is his ego that has the fondest memories.

He had been one of the cool kids with a bad boy side that came from transferring into the school after being asked not to return to his previous one.

He used cockiness to maintain his image. He had told his friend that you don’t get anything if you don’t try and the results are often better than you thought. One thing led to another and within a month he had started his first serious relationship.

They were sitting in an ice-cream parlour. Mark had told him he was interested in Miranda. He’d replied that he should just call her and, after spouting his two-bit wisdom, decided he needed to do a demonstration. He added that even tacky shit can work and called over the waiter.

He requested that the waiter deliver a wolf whistle to the girl he had spotted a few tables over and received a phone number in return.

“It’s probably a fake.”

The next day he was proven right and Mark was still hesitating over Miranda. That’s when he decided he would call Linda to show Mark how it was done. Not that he had any experience but the big talking required a confident follow-up.

The phone call led to a pool party. The three dunkings led to Linda putting on her swim suit. Fifteen months later it was finished.

He sometimes meets up with Mark when he goes home for a visit. Once, he remembers Mark asking “Do you remember the girl you had those two dates with when you were in college?” He is married to Debbie.

Averages, a Book and a Series

In a crowd of 100,000 people with Bill Gates in it, everyone is, on average, a millionaire.

I remember reading, in the late 70’s, that there were no billionaires. Hundreds of millions was all that was necessary to get on the list of 500 richest.

I reread Slaughterhouse-Five. I remembered nothing from my teenage reading of it, not even the catch phrase.

I am listening to an interview. “So it goes” he says. I had heard good things about the series he plays in. I learn that there is method to his acting.

I am reminded of the interview when the phrase appears in the series opener. His relationship to it is confirmed in the second episode with a shot that shows it tattooed on his shoulder. He’d said that the tattoos shown in the show were his own.

A few more episodes, a few more signs of his influence on the series. Two of his children guest star.

I question the limits of method acting; then I question my stereotypes. His physique, his movements, don’t match the character’s back story. I stop questioning my biases when the scene calls for the use of old skills.

And I smile when his gift of an album to a love interest reminds me Travis Bickle’s gift to Betsy. His insomnia makes me question whether the reference is deliberate but his relationship to the music lacks the intimacy of the true fan he is supposed to be.

Regardless, I am enjoying the series.

For my memory of the rankings to be accurate, it would have to be post Howard Hughes.

Front Page News

Fifty years ago I learned about slow news days.

Class is interrupted; an adult talks quietly to the teacher; she calls out my name.

WTF was not part of my vocabulary; it was part of my repertoire of reactions. “Please go with the assistant principal.” What could this be about. It has been months since I have last had to defend my honour in the schoolyard.

We pass the water fountain, she looks back and tells me not to worry, I am not in trouble.

I am led to the principal’s office. She tells me to sit in one of the chairs below the smoked windows. I am to wait while she gets the others.

I study the waiting room. His name is on the door to the left. The school secretary is seated at a desk behind a wooden half-wall with a swing gate. Behind her, a wall of metal filing cabinets. She asks me how I am doing.

“Fine.”

The assistant principal comes back with two girls from the other Grade 2 class. She knocks on the principal’s door.

A few seconds later, she follows the principal and two men out of the office. One has a mustache and cameras around his neck.

There’s a joke about how we must be surprised to be called to the principal’s office. We’re told that we were getting a treat, a reward. The man with the cameras is a photographer for the morning newspaper. We are to follow him, listen to him as he takes a few pictures for a summer-is-coming article.

We are sat on the school’s back stairs with blank report cards—it’s too soon for the real ones. We are told to look at them and smile as-if they were full of good grades. There’s a non-stop stream of words as we get mixed and matched in different poses.

We are not to get excited about the photo shoot. We learn that no one knows if and when the pictures will get used. The pictures will be kept and if they have room in the paper, they will use one to talk about school finishing for the year. They will call our parents the day before they get used.

We get to start recess early. The girls walk off together, talking excitedly. I am wondering what I am going to tell the others when they ask why I was called out. My illusions of coolness are shattered—I am now officially a teacher’s pet.

A few weeks later, my mother gets a call from the paper. It is a very slow news day. They have used the picture with me in the middle. It is full sized and on the front page. She buys all the copies in the box.

Meet Me in Baltimore

It was a random line that wasn’t random. The movie takes place in 1903 St. Louis. Why the Orioles?

The scene starts with the father coming home from work. He’s a lawyer who’s just lost a case. He’s in a bad mood.

The eternally optimistic daughter suggests that happiness could be found with a switch to a dream career.

He’s not suffering silliness. He wants sympathy (and a bath). “Beginning tomorrow, I intend to play first base for the Baltimore Orioles.”

I’m intrigued but first I have to make sure I’m not imagining a puzzle from a single piece. I go duck ducking for facts.

In 1903, St. Louis had two major league baseball teams: The Cardinals and the Browns.

The Baltimore Orioles (1901–1903): The team moved to New York where they were renamed the Highlanders and later, in 1913, became the New York Yankees.

Who’s the fan? It’s time for a quick background check of the principals.

Producer: Arthur Freed. Born: Charleston, South Carolina.

Director: Vincente Minnelli. Born: Chicago, Illinois.

Writer: Fred F. Finklehoffe. Born: Springfield, Massachusetts.

Writer: Irving Brecher. Born: New York City, New York.

I have found the fan that knows his team trivia, but, even for a Yankees fan, fandom alone is a weak motive.

The movie was released in 1944. With the time it takes to make a movie, the answer is probably in 1943.

The 1943 World Series was a rematch of the 1942 series with the New York Yankees defeating the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals in five games.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a home run.”

Now to wrap up ironically with a few random pieces found during my quest.

The 1944 World Series featured the St. Louis Cardinals beating the St. Louis Browns in six games. After the 1953 season, the Browns moved to Baltimore where they were renamed the Orioles.

The original Baltimore Orioles moved to New York before the start of the 1903 season.

Great? Well…

I keep hearing it referred to as a great movie but I have not watched Some Like It Hot since the days when you could only choose which channel to watch. These days you can see almost any film at any time and it is time to see it again.

I have to double check that I am watching the right movie. It is in black and white. I also double check that I remember the year, 1959, correctly. I then check to see where Marilyn was in her career. I later learn that it was fairly big budget film and that Tony Curtis‘ and Jack Lemmon‘s makeup looked grotesque in colour.

The opening scene makes me think of the Keystone Cops. I am still distracted from my research. I am more forgiving when the context, Chicago 1929, is given.

Jack Lemmon’s lecherous jokes put me back into a critical mode. I don’t think they need the era as an excuse (I’m too old to be sure) but, regardless, I find them cheap.

I congratulate myself for catching the blues term jelly roll, knowing that I didn’t know what it meant the first time I saw the movie and knowing that most people today would not know its meaning. I groan at the salami while recognizing it would have been extremely racy for the times. I am not enjoying the innuendo—it feels adolescent.

It is when the movie moves away from the slapstick that the movie shines. Usually it is the opposite, I like Woody Allen‘s early slapstick a lot more than his critically acclaimed movies.

There is the genius of Marilyn calling herself dumb for repeating the same mistakes. The questioning of the standards when, after unwanted contact in an elevator, Jack Lemmon slips back into male-hood to say he now understands what it’s like to be on the receiving end.

More than the innuendo or Marilyn’s outfits, it is the handling of the cross-dressing that was the most daring for the times and it leads to the best scenes of the movie.  Instead of taking the easy way out and camping it up, it is played straight, with scenes like the one where Jack Lemmon is overjoyed at getting engaged. I cannot help but think that there must have been an alternate ending just in case the finale did not make it past the morality police.

Great? Well…, there are few moments when it is only good.

Location Bound

Logically it was in June of 1969 when moved into our second Vancouver home.

Logically because my memories of Neil Armstrong stepping on the moon are located there. And we had arrived in Vancouver on July 1st of 1968. And I’m fairly certain that our first home was already waiting for us, thus already rented. Guessing that we probably had one year lease on that house means that logically the most likely date for our first Canadian move was on June 1st of 1969.

Seeing as our second home was also a one year affair, I can place in time my memories from there. It was the year we started riding the city’s buses.

I remember spending the summer going to a large neighbourhood park with a community centre that organized all sorts of activities. It was the only time in my childhood when we didn’t live next to a park. The playground at the school across the street was a poor substitute so we would make our mother take us to our favourite park. Our trips were excursions with my mother packing a picnic, blankets, towels, swimsuits and three children onto a bus.

The park was large enough to have a swimming pool deep enough to swim in. It was there I learned how to to float and how to swim which I did mostly underwater because I could not figure out how to breathe without swallowing water and if I was holding my breath I might as well have an excuse.

I also remember the afternoon when drawing horses was the art activity of the day and somehow there were live horses to sketch. Having read (heard?) somewhere that artists do multiple quick sketches when capturing objects in motion, I started going through sheets of paper with one sketch after another. The monitor came over and convinced me to try to draw more slowly, to fill in the details. I liked my sketches a lot more than the drawing I attempted so I went back to the earlier sketches and started filling the details (grass, fencing, trees) until the art activity was finished.

Other than our excursions to the park, almost all of our bus trips would start in front of McGavin’s Bakeries, home to the white bread we craved but rarely had. Our mother disapproved of industrial bread and we ate roof-of-the-mouth shredding homemade bread. She did agree that, despite all their chemicals, the smell of baking bread was still mouth-wateringly good. It is still one of my favourite smells and it is usually followed, while it is still warm enough to melt butter, by a few slices.

Riding the buses became our Sunday activity. We would get the Sunday Holiday pass (the ampersand remained silent) take the bus west to a transfer stop, change bus, and ride the line to its terminus. If the line didn’t end at a concrete island in the middle of nowhere, we would get off, explore the area before doubling back. Otherwise, we would sit, reading the Buzzer, memorizing the jokes, and wait for the bus to start its ride back. Some of the lines took two transfers to get to.

At some point during that year, probably near the end of our stay in our second Canadian home, my Mother started using the buses as her babysitting service. We would choose the line to ride and I would be given the emergency coin purse with our home phone and address, dimes (for the phone booth), and a few dollars. She would purchase our day passes, ask the bus driver to keep an eye on us, and remind me of my role as the eldest son.

I know it must have been that year because I was also taking the bus alone that year and this I know because I remember scaring the shit out of my mother by showing up later than expected because, to earn myself a little extra pocket money, I walked the two miles from Jewish school. What I cannot remember is what I had planned to do with the money saved — a coke? candy bar? hockey cards?