Archive for December, 2015

31
Dec
15

happy new year 2016

1920s_party-600x419.

I’ve never much celebrated New Year’s Eve.

As I recall, Holly and I only spent one enjoyable new year’s eve, with a group of theater people—but with all things theater, it was flash-in-the-pan, and we never saw that crowd again. Thereafter, new year’s eve has always been a night best spent quietly at home, away from the drunks, with modest expectations for “fun.”

The most typical new year’s eve I recall was when Holly tried out a new Chinese recipe that included lychee fruit—from a tropical/subtropical fruit tree native to the Guangdong and Fujian provinces of China. The fresh fruit has a “delicate, whitish pulp” with a floral smell and a fragrant, sweet flavor. Since this perfume-like flavor is lost in the process of canning, the fruit is usually eaten fresh. But this was pre-Internet, Holly didn’t know it, and the only lychee fruits Holly could find were canned. The dish was so horrible, even the dog wouldn’t eat it, let alone our dinner guest. So you see why we always set our expectations low for the night.

Inevitably, the most fun to be had on new year’s eve was in the movies. Those theater people—they can always be counted on to look like they’re having a good time, no matter what’s going on.

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THE GOLD DIGGERS OF BROADWAY (US 1929) WARNER BROS Picture from the Ronald Grant Archive.

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e52b9cacb0644ea3c533b4d4b0c39b03.new years 6 Another Thin Man William Powell Myrna Loy.

vintage_new_year-otrcat.com.

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Weather Report

40° and Partly Cloudy

30
Dec
15

horse sense

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by Erik Roth
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“Americans have sought the value of everything in this world only in the answer to this single question: How much money will it bring in?”
  ~  Alexis de Tocqueville
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“Scared money can’t win and a worried man can’t love.”
  ~  Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses
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“We have almost forgotten how strange a thing it is that so huge and powerful and intelligent an animal as a horse should allow another, and far more feeble animal, to ride upon its back.”
~ Peter Gray
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“It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall.”
~ Mexican Proverb
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“The horse is God’s gift to mankind. The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse’s ears.”
~ Arabian Proverb
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“The horse through all its trials has preserved the sweetness of paradise in its blood.”
~ Johannes Jensen
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“Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people.”
~ W.C. Fields
29
Dec
15

after you’ve gone

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Sammy Davis, Jr., regarded by many as the “Greatest Entertainer in the World,” said that the one person he would never follow on stage was Bobby Darin. He was that good.

An immensely talented and versatile person, Bobby Darin is best known as a singer who performed in a range of music genres, including jazz, pop, rock’n’roll, folk, swing and country. But he was also a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor of film and television.

He was the only actor ever to have been signed to five major Hollywood film studios and his nightclub act was a major draw on the Las Vegas strip. He has stars on the Las Vegas “Walk of Stars” and the “Hollywood Walk of Fame.” He has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

The drive behind his amazing success was his poor health. He was not expected to live beyond his teens; he always felt he was living on borrowed time, but he kept it a secret from his fans. They would have been surprised to learn that during the last few years of his life, he was often administered oxygen during and after his performances on stage and screen.

Darin suffered from poor health his entire life. He was frail as an infant and, beginning at age eight, was stricken with recurring bouts of rheumatic fever that left him with a seriously weakened heart. In January 1971, he underwent his first heart surgery in an attempt to correct some of the heart damage he had lived with since childhood. Two artificial heart valves were implanted in his heart. He spent most of that year recovering from the surgery.

In 1973, after failing to take antibiotics to protect his heart before a dental visit, Darin developed sepsis, an overwhelming systemic blood infection. This further weakened his body and affected one of his heart valves. On December 11, he checked himself into Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles for another round of open-heart surgery to repair the two artificial heart valves he had received in January 1971. On the evening of December 19, a five-man surgical team worked for over six hours to repair his damaged heart. Shortly after the surgery ended in the early morning hours of December 20, 1973, Darin died in the recovery room without regaining consciousness. He was 37 years old.

There were no funeral arrangements; Darin’s last wish in his will was that his body be donated to science for medical research. His body was transferred to the UCLA Medical Center shortly after his death.

۞

Weather Report

38° and Clear

Snow is still on the ground, but melting.

28
Dec
15

beyond the sea

bobby darin young.

Born Walden Robert Cassotto in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York City, Bobby Darin was reared by Polly, his maternal grandmother, who he thought was his mother.

Darin’s birth mother, Vanina Juliette “Nina” Cassotto (born in November 1917), became pregnant with him in the summer of 1935 when she was 17. Presumably because of the scandalous nature of out-of-wedlock pregnancies in that era, Nina and her mother hatched a plan to pass off the baby as Nina’s younger brother.

Darin always believed Nina to be his older sister and Polly his mother. But in 1968, when he was 32 and only five years from his untimely death, Darin finally learned the truth from Nina that she, not Polly, was his mother. She chose this timing to tell him the truth because he was running for political office and she did not want a surprise revelation by some investigative reporter to derail his ambitions. Yet she refused to reveal the identity of his biological father, and kept that secret up to her death in 1983.

The news devastated him. “My whole life has been a lie,” he said at the time. This was an emotional earthquake, an explosion of his core beliefs.

He spent a year living in a trailer in the Big Sur forest, thinking and writing, but never recovering from a lifelong deception he could never understand. His fabled self-confidence and ego turned to doubt and introspection. His self-esteem, personality, values, and musical direction underwent major changes.

Darin wasn’t sure if he could ever trust again.

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Weather Report

29° Cloudy and Snow

 

 

27
Dec
15

splish splash

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I was ten years old when Bobby Darin came to prominence with his first hit song, “Splish Splash.” I remember liking it at the time. It was the spring of 1958.

He co-wrote the song with radio DJ Murray Kaufman (“Murray the K”) after a phone call from Kaufman’s mother, Jean, a frustrated songwriter. Her latest song idea was “Splish, Splash, Take a Bath.”

Kaufman bet Darin that he couldn’t write a song that began with the words, “Splish Splash, I was takin’ a bath.” Both Kaufman and Darin felt the title was lackluster, but Darin rose to the challenge. “I could write a song with that title,” he said.

Within one hour, Darin had written “Splish Splash” and the single sold more than a million copies.

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۞

Weather Report

28° Cloudy and Snow

26
Dec
15

exceptional

stupid.
by Henry Dailey

America is exceptional… exceptionally stupid.

Nearly half the country is in favor of bombing a fictional city from a cartoon, presumably because it sounds Muslim. On the plus side, bombing cartoons is probably cheaper, kills no real people, and gives Hollywood endless CGI violence movies and sequels (which is about all they make these days, anyway).

This from the same world in which J.K. Rowling states that “Trump is worse than Voldemort” and people camp out for 12 days to see a Star Wars sequel. And you wonder why I refuse to see most movies and turned off the TV long ago. Anytime I pass by something related to “entertainment,” I feel the stupid literally oozing out.

Also of note: Students at a Pennsylvania college demand that the name of a building dedicated to a former school president be changed because the name, Lynch, is said to be “racist.” I have yet to see anyone threaten a boycott of Merrill Lynch or attack the current US Attorney General on the same basis.

Ten years ago in Minnesota there was a local initiative to change the name of Coon Rapids because it, too, was thought to be racist. I never heard that claim until 2005. It is interesting to see how the Urban Dictionary defines Coon Rapids.

Rhode Island has also been a target of such campaigns because the state’s official full name is “Rhode Island and Plantations.”

I want off this planet. The ride is making me sick.
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353-stupid-boy.

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Weather Report

61° and Cloudy, Clearing in the Afternoon

25
Dec
15

away from home

decorations.

One of the saddest things about this time of year is that time and circumstances have moved on and my son Henry can no longer return to the place he remembers as “home.”

I have gone to great lengths to make Estrella Vista my home (and have largely succeeded), but Henry has been living in Florida as a steadfast nomad, and has not developed any permanent connections to any place he’s lived. He presently lives in a one-bedroom apartment with no furniture but a mattress, and is prepared to move at the drop of a hat, unencumbered by possessions.

If you think I live the life of an ascetic, believe me, it doesn’t hold a candle to the lifestyle of my son. Despite average wages, he has paid off his private-college student loans and has money in the bank. He has developed personal discipline to a degree that is beyond my ability, and I am proud of him for that. However, it is at times like today that he deals with the obverse side of the coin and is alone, separated from his roots, connected to me by only a telephone line.

I have tried repeatedly to get him to visit this place, but he always declines. He says that it is too far away, and that he can ill-afford the time away from work. But I suspect that he resists seeing the old familiar objects of his youth in a new setting that will confirm that the “home” of his memory is truly a thing of the past.

We spoke on the phone yesterday, and the best gift he could have given me was the statement that one of his goals for the coming year is that he is going to try to achieve a greater understanding of why I have relocated here.

Who knows? Maybe that will even include a visit.

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Weather Report

81° and Clear

24
Dec
15

christmas eve 2015

old fashioned santa.

For the children in our family, this night was the beginning of Christmas with the first presents.

For the adults, it was the beginning of a period of peace after a hectic shopping season, a festive meal prepared by my mother-in-law (an excellent cook), the long drive home on snowy highways, the preparations for the next morning before turning into bed.

Now it is strangely silent, the children long grown up and living in distant places.

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۞

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“Christmas Eve was a night of song that wrapped itself about you like a shawl.

“But it warmed more than your body. It warmed your heart… filled it, too, with melody that would last forever.”

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~Bess Streeter Aldrich (1881-1954), one of Nebraska’s most widely read and enjoyed authors

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۞

Weather Report

80° and Clear

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PS: It is 10:30 on Christmas Eve 2015, and quite by accident I have awakened from a nap in time for a rebroadcast of a 30-minute recording of a reading of Frederick Forsyth’s short story, “The Shepherd,” by Al Maitland.

I posted this recording once before, in 2012, and add it here for anyone who is checking in tonight and wants a delightful treat.

The year is 1957. An RAF pilot is heading home from Germany for Christmas. Fog sets in, and all radio communication is lost.

Redirect to the appropriate CBC Page

23
Dec
15

recess report 3

desert holly.

Last night I attended a holiday supper at my neighbor’s house, but I couldn’t openly share what was uppermost on my mind.

Just before I drove over to my neighbors’, I had just gotten off the phone with a man who wants to buy something I own, which would allow me to pay off the remaining debt on Estrella Vista and make the next phase of my vision for the property possible. We hadn’t agreed on a final price, but we had agreed we were close enough that we were going to reach an agreement.

Several weeks ago, I had intimated to a friend what I wanted to do, and he voiced his amazement that I am able to keep moving forward on fumes alone.

Impossible objectives have never scared me. One of the first guys—a real estate developer—who I took to visit my future park told me: “You will never be able to make this project happen; there’s just too much land here. It’s too valuable.” Well, it took fifteen years and the commitment of hundreds of people, but millions of dollars in private and public financing were eventually raised, and a nature park and trail are now a part of the scene in Minneapolis. A reality that would never have come to pass had I listened to others and given up.

When I came to West Texas thirteen years ago, I developed several iterations of a vision that a permanent home would be established here for kids who need a second chance at life. That vision did not start with the property, but in this case with the need and conviction that kids from awful homes needed a place to begin rebuilding their lives. It took me seven years to find Estrella Vista, and another six years to cobble together a property of sufficient size.

At times I was the only person who believed in the vision—a lonely place to be, but I have been here before. The day before he left, Alex King told me he regarded the vision as a “pipe dream” that had little chance of coming to fruition. But what does he know? He has never been involved in an “impossible” vision before.

What he doesn’t appreciate is that I won’t ever give up. I’m patient and willing to use every resource I can, no matter how meager, to make my mission an actuality.

When I lived in Marathon, there was one place where I discovered what I think was a desert holly (Acourtia wrightii), in a protected place in the otherwise inhospitable Chihuahuan Desert environment. It had pink flowers and attracted butterflies. I found it in only one location and have the impression it’s quite rare… or at least uncommon. In this one place, it seemed to flourish despite adversity. I took that desert holly as my inspiration.

If it could survive, I could too, even if the odds were against it.

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۞

Weather Report

60° and Partly Cloudy

22
Dec
15

recess report 2

Wren.

I was napping the other day when there was a knock on the door. “Sheriff!” boomed the voice. “Can you step out here? We need to talk with you!”

I knew I wasn’t in trouble. I only drive into town once a week, and have never done anything to run afoul of the law. Yet, it had to be something important enough to bring out a sheriff’s deputy.

When I got to the door, I saw that it was Mike and his dad Jon, come to visit now that Mike and his family had arrived in the Big Bend from Colorado for a visit. As a teenager, Mike was a member of the youth group of young daredevils I used to advise.

Besides harassing me, they were here to invite me for Christmas dinner. I’m glad to have the invitation and to look forward to their hospitality. Plus, I’m especially fond of Mikes’s and Jon’s wives. I wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to see them.

When I called my childhood friend the other night, he gave me the contact information for another friend of ours with whom he has maintained an ongoing relationship. I called him, too. Though it took several clues to jog his memory of exactly with whom he was speaking, his memory finally kicked in and he remembered me. “Didn’t you move away to a house on a creek?” he asked, and I knew he’d finally nailed it.

Once he had gotten over the initial discomfort of not being able to immediately recall his playmate of 56 years ago, he seemed glad to hear from me. He was going out the door to have Christmas with his daughter’s family, so I have no doubt we will connect again as the old synapses are activated.

Yesterday I received an email from my ersatz-daughter Sarah with an attachment of a photo (above) of Wren, the ersatz-granddaughter I have never met. I’m sure the full family photo is on its way by snail-mail (Sarah asked for my address again), but I never get tired of these family photos. They remind me of how quickly my favorite kids are changing. I suppose it is a virtue that I have no mirrors in the house and can avoid becoming preoccupied with my own aging, but seeing images of my “grandkids” somehow rejuvenates me and fills me with energy and hope for the future.

I had just begun lighting votive lamps to observe the Solstice last night (more candles than around a hot chick’s bath tub) when old friends began to check in and remember me on this, my high holy day of the year. Minnesota friends inevitably told me how much they missed our annual Solstice celebration, where the table was loaded down with food, the kitchen sink filled with imported beers and other libations, the house crowded with people. They even said they missed seeing me, which is my greatest source of joy.

I’m glad I declared this holiday recess. Connecting with old friends and family is the most important reward of the season.

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۞

Weather Report

65° and Clear