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Ask Permission

“How can men embrace feminism and still be gentlemen?”

The question was posed by a male Facebook friend just now. I understand the consternation.

I like to open doors for women, especially my wife. They don’t need for me to do it. They’re certainly strong enough to open their own doors. In Janie’s case, she’s probably more capable than I am. She’s strong, like bull – a graceful like the dancer she is.

I love to hold Janie’s coat as she slips into it. She doesn’t need for me to do it. She’s far better at dressing herself than I am at dressing myself.

When we’re out, I like to hold her chair as she sits at dinner. She absolutely has no need for me to do so – strong and graceful, remember?

So.

Why do I do it?

For me.

It’s a feeble attempt to atone for rude and stupid moments from the past. It’s an elementary school level reasoning; “if I’m nice to you today, maybe it makes up for one stupid and rude thing I did yesterday.”

Of course it doesn’t, but for a moment, it feels like my world has been made a smidge better and that I was the agent for that improvement. That’s not a bad thing. A selfish thing perhaps, but not a bad thing.

But Janie and the other women in my life don’t need to participate in my atonement. Indeed, they may feel belittled by my “gentlemanly” actions.

So.

I try to ask for permission.

It may be a look. It may be spoken.

If it’s spoken, it’s a request, not an order. It’s “May I?” not “Let me.”

“Let me” implies “You need for me to do this for you.”

“May I” states clearly “I really would like to do this for you and you’d be doing me a personal favor by allowing to do so.”

Would I want to do these courtly deeds for men as well as women? Yes, but permission from men is seldom given and the request, in any form, is most often resented.

Am I over-thinking this?

Probably.

It’s my gift.

I’ll simplify it.

In every happy and life-enhancing and guilt-free experience I’ve had with the opposite sex, permission was asked. Thus, my two-word answer to the question; “How can men embrace feminism and still be gentlemen?” is;

Ask permission.

Pitino Musings

Pitino Musings

 

A “Lexpatriot” friend (temporarily living in the Northwest until he inevitably is drawn back to where he belongs), prompted by recent FBI/NCAA headlines, asked me this week what I thought of Rick Pitino. The quick and easy answer that slipped into my mind was a quote from that source of all wisdom, Facebook;

“It’s complicated”.

But it’s not.

The Italian restaurant incident, the basketball dorm stripper parties, the big-dollar payments to lure college basketball talent, and a couple of un-admirable experiences related to me by local business friends that occurred during Mr. Pitino’s University of Kentucky career are more than enough evidence to convince me that I would not want a child of mine to grow up to be like him. And isn’t that the bottom line of what a coach ought to be?

… << ahem >> …isn’t that what an adult ought to be?

…… <<double ahem>> ……isn’t that what an adult ought to expect from another coach/adult?

…or even demand?

So.

Why is it complicated?

I believe we are profoundly confused about sports.

Except in some movies and imaginary decadent Rome, sports are not existential. They’re games. They’re amusements. We should not be so serious and somber about players kneeling (or not), whether replay is a good thing or not, whether “one-and-done” is the best strategy in basketball or sketchy restaurants. It’s a GAME, ferchrissakes! Nobody’s gonna die…well, maybe at the sketchy restaurant.

There are, right now, possibly existential things happening the world;

  • North Korea’s belligerence.
  • Russia’s clear-to-anyone-with-half-a-mind current cyber-attack on our country.
  • Climate change.

Sports is not one of them.

Yet sports is what we dwell upon overmuch.

I’m guilty.

I find myself living and dying 15 times a night during UK Wildcat games. My seeming life and death held in the hands of five to six young men who were trying to garner a date to the senior high school prom nine months ago. As passionate as I am, part of me knows it’s just me being foolish…and entertained by my own foolishness.

I may alternately rave or moon about baseball and “my beloved Reds”, but that’s just me being romantic and nostalgic…and perhaps…dare we say…old.

But it’s just a game.

Except…

There was a time in Lexington in 1989 when things were about as depressing as things could be. The UK basketball team had justifiably been spotlighted by Sports Illustrated magazine with a cover story headlined; “Kentucky’s Shame”. A player had been recruited to UK’s team with dollars direct. Maybe not the amounts bandied about today, but it was the existence of the deed, not the amplitude. The coach was removed, the athletics director left as well, the offending assistant was ostracized, and the program laden with appropriate penalties. Players left. Gloom and guilt signed long leases in the community.

At an initial press conference, the new AD at UK, C. M. Newton introduced his choice as the new coach, Rick Pitino.

Pitino’s confidence and his demeanor at that first press conference changed everything in my home town. Belief and will kicked gloom and guilt out of their digs. Mr. Pitino took the remaining Kentucky players (who were almost all FROM Kentucky) and over the next 24 months made them into the best versions of themselves. He took them from “shame” to one shot away the Final Four, and took Lexington along for the ride.

No, I would not want a child of mine to grow up to be like him.

But I will always be grateful for what he did for my home town.

It was unforgettable.

Absolutely!

I’m not much on absolutes – haven’t had much luck with ‘em.

I’m not sayin’ there aren’t any – but there’s certainly not many, and most of the ones I uncover seem to be negative.

There’s death and taxes…and of course, my dancing abilities. I think we can all stipulate to the absolute awfulness of those.

But practically speaking, it’s real hard to find principles that work every time in every situation.

That said, I have one modest, but useful absolute to offer that has never failed……thus far.

ANIHILATION PREVENTION STRATEGY (APS, if you must)

There are four steps;

  1. Identify and locate all things nearby that tend to explode and/or burst into flame.
  2. Don’t stand next to them.
  3. When implementing #1, err on the side of instant assumptions, right or wrong.
  4. When implementing #2, err on the side of alacrity and distance, right or wrong.

I know this sounds like a solid recipe for a dull and unadventurous life, but the key word here is “life”.

This has always worked for me……thus far.

By the way, it also works for emotionally combustible people.

Kazantzakis and the Nearness of Sin

“He uttered a triumphant cry: IT IS ACCOMPLISHED!

And it was though he had said: Everything has begun.”

With those words, Nikos Kazantzakis closes his novel; THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST. And with those words, I closed his book and ended my first reading experience with Mr. Kazantzakis. I was 20 years old in 1971. It was a delicious, hot, muggy summer in Lexington, and I was more than a little befuddled by what I had just read.

I liked the book. Kazantzakis’ descriptions of biblical geography were interesting. The characters were many and varied, and moved through that geography with pace and purpose that pulled me through the story. I did find myself wishing I had paid a bit more attention in my Southern Baptist Sunday School class as a child. The place names might have been easier to follow if I had.

What bewildered me were the hallucinatory passages in the novel, especially the extended passage at the end of the novel in which Jesus experiences and rejects the Devil’s final blandishment. My 20-year-old reaction was something on the order of; “Whoa! Where the hell (or heaven) did that come from? And why?”

Meh… Whatever.

I had read it and now I had to return the book to the upperclassman who had lent it to me with the usual unambiguous instruction that almost always accompanies a book lent unasked for; “You’ll enjoy this.” That phrase always sounds so amiable, but when it comes from an older friend whose apparent intellect and experience you aspire to, the phrase carries the weight of stone tablets from the Mount.

Returning the book meant a trip to the Geek House, usually a mind broadening if not mind improving occasion. The Geek House was a small cottage on a two-way street near the University of Kentucky. Like many of these small cottages it was infested (infested… yes, I think that is le mot juste) by students. Years later when I saw the film ANIMAL HOUSE it occurred to me how lucky Lexington was that the Geek House was a small cottage and not a large house. The population of Geek House was capped at four… or five…… or six………or… (it was a liquid situation) because of the limited space available. The rotating roster of the house included two or three theater majors, two brothers from Pike County (one was in pre-law and the other was a convicted felon who was a hell of a mechanic – it sounds like the making of a great team – I wonder where they are now?), and a graduate student from the Philippines. The graduate student had an amazing name that no one could pronounce. He shortened it for our convenience to Pu Pe. Of course that turned out to be an unwise choice of truncation. “Poopy” he became and remained for as long as I knew him. I learned a valuable lesson in diplomacy from Poopy. I knew he was a graduate student and a bright and well-spoken guy. Yet his English seem to desert him when it came to being properly offended by his nickname. He got along just fine with everybody.

One of the more charming traditions of the house was the weekend poker game. It would begin on Friday evening and continue with a variety of participants coming and going until it petered out on late Sunday afternoon as the last bleary participants wandered away.

This was a serious poker game. There were snorts and grunts that indicated calls and raises. Cards were held close to the chest, or dropped to the floor as the weekend wore on and small motor skills decayed. Challenges to manhood were common and personal financial statuses were altered. Sometimes you would even see a dollar bill in the center of the table on top of the quarters, dimes, and nickels.

It too, as you can imagine, was a liquid situation – mostly beer. I think that’s why they tolerated my spectator-only presence at the game. I was ground control. If any authority figure knocked at the door, I was sent to answer. Usually after a brief reassuring conversation the authority figure would go away confident in the knowledge that a sober 20-year-old adult had this situation well in hand. It was an innocent time.

One memorable Sunday afternoon, the game was continuing but grinding down. There was a knock on the door. I answered. It was the parents of one of the theater majors residing in the house. They had driven in from Madisonville to visit relatives and thought it would be nice to drop in on their son, Carson. Well, Carson had been participating in the poker game off and on for most of the weekend and he looked like it. He leapt to his feet, swiftly visited the bathroom, his razor, and his closet (where he found his “cleanest dirty shirt” as Kris Kristopherson so poignantly describes it), while I chattered away with his parents discussing all the people in Madisonville I didn’t know (not having ever set foot in the town) and while the other poker participants discreetly (again, the perfect word) transferred the beer bottles from the tabletop to the floor. Carson’s parents pretended to be oblivious. Carson presented himself as shiny as a newly minted penny (in his dreams). They left. The house was silent for a minute or two. Then Poopy turned to the pre-law brother and said; “Well, I certainly am glad you kept your filthy fucking mouth shut.” There was general agreement with that sentiment and the game ended about 10 minutes later with a prayer for Carson.

Often on Friday evenings before the game degenerated to Neanderthal-ness, the discussions around the table could be coherent and instructive. It was during one of these intellectual oases that my friend, Ray Skewes was expounding on the genius of Nikos Kazantzakis. He had finished reading THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST that week and was dying to discuss it with someone. No one was interested, but since I was the youngest in the room I was chosen to be the other member of his instantly created book club. Ray went to his bedroom and fetched his battered paperback copy of the book, placed it reverently into my hands, and instructed; “You’ll enjoy this”.

Well…I had duly followed my instructions and now needed to return the book to Ray.

That August the house was practically deserted. The denizens had all dispersed to their various summertime activities. A couple of the actors had summer theater jobs, Carson had been ordered home to Madisonville for a period of debriefing and reorientation to the wisdom of making better use of his time, and the brothers had returned to the mountains to do something murky, into which it would be best not to inquire too deeply. Thus, everyone was gone except for Ray.

I drove to the house and bounced up on the porch and knocked on the door. There was no immediate answer until, after subsequent knockings, the blinds on the window next to the door twitched ever so slightly. Then the doorknob turned and the door opened about 6 inches and Ray peered at me. He was looking pretty rough. His hair was long and stringy and did not suggest that it had seen water for a while. His shirt and jeans were wrinkled and sagging and did not suggest that they had seen water for a while. He had about a three day growth of beard and it did not suggest… Now this look was not rare for Ray. Today we might even say that this was Ray’s “brand”. But that afternoon there was a haggard quality that suffused his usual fashion statement.

I explained my reason for being at his doorstep and held out the book. He looked at it for a moment, processing the information. Then his eyes lit up and he threw open the door and invited me in. He closed the door behind me, put on the chain, and adjusted the blinds for perfect opaqueness. That’s when the smell hit me. It was a sharp, dry, and dusty smell, and it was intense. Ray returned to his position on the couch to continue the project he was working on when I banged on the door. There was a garbage bag (filled with marijuana plants) on the floor in front of his feet and there was a grocery bag (almost filled with marijuana leaves) next to it. Next to that a soup kettle (for the stems he explained). Ray described his project.

“I was hiking in the Red River Gorge a while back and we came across this little field filled with marijuana. I made note of our location and went back last week and harvested all I could carry and brought it back here. Carson’s bedroom is filled with bags. I’ve got to get this stuff processed and outta here before the guys come back to school. Plus, I think it’s starting to stink (starting?). And now there’s fleas! I’ll never get all this done. Hey. How’d’ja like the book?”

I’d like to say I was cool.

Cool was what I would’ve liked to have been.

I was not cool. I was stunned.

I was scared to death.

I was appalled by the filth and the smell and the fleas.

Then…

The car stopped.

Cars were coming and going to and from the University all the time on the street, but they normally didn’t stop in front of the house.

Then…

The car door slammed.

Ray froze with his hands in the middle of the dismemberment of a plant, his eyes wide, and a sick, gray crept into his face.

Then…

A team of big men in dark suits and dark glasses and badges burst through the door. They put handcuffs on me and Ray, and proceeded to haul all those bags and us out to their vehicle and un-gently crammed us all in. They took us downtown in a blur and in an even faster blur we were in a jail cell. The trial was quick and decisive. Sentences and fines were meted out. They were paid and served. I emerged from incarceration to a world that did not wish to hire me for anything ever. No female would come near me. I never married. I meandered into a penniless, barren old-age.

Then…

The car door slammed again as the pedestrian being picked up got on board, and the car drove away.

Ray sagged in relief and resumed his activity. He gave a nervous shake to his head, grinned at me, and said “So, how’d’ja like the book?”

I believe my exact response was; “It was great but I can’t stay and talk about it now I gotta go I got something to do I got rehearsal I’m in a show but I can’t stay and talk about it now I’ll get with you later thanks for the book.”

As I recall, that response was delivered in a manner that was eerily reminiscent of a patter song from Gilbert and Sullivan. I then moved with great pace and purpose to the door and out of the house. I bounced off the porch and to my car and drove directly home, directly to my bathroom to take three consecutive showers – showers every bit as spiritually cleansing as Janet Leigh’s shower in PSYCHO. No, I was not attacked by the knife wielding mother of Norman Bates, but I felt like I deserved to be.

I never returned to Geek House. I only rarely ever saw Ray again and we never had a chance to discuss his book. I never inquired as to the final disposition of his summer project.

It was a long time before I felt clean again.

I had heard the phrase; “the nearness of sin”, but I don’t think it ever really registered with me until that day.

I understood it fully after that day.

I also had a better understanding and a deeper appreciation of Nikos Kazantzakis. That understanding and appreciation leaves me very comfortable with the possibility that none of this story actually happened and yet all of it is true.

Magical Legends & Legumes

Movie night!

INTO THE WOODS.

I liked it…a lot.

Meryl Streep is impossible to look away from – nothing new in that. I am always amazed at the energy, imagination, and range of Ms. Streep in the projects she chooses. Hell, I think I was the first one standing at the opening night of the film version of MAMMA MIA at the Kentucky Theater. It was a brave choice and I loved her performance.

The songs in this show are engaging and clever – nothing new in that. It’s Stephen Sondheim.

The stories Sondheim mashed up to create the narrative of INTO THE WOODS are some of the most exciting stories ever told…and told and told. Again, nothing new here. Giants, witches, philandering princes, magical legumes, senior-citizen-devouring wolves; this is the stuff of legends. Oh wait, they are legends.

I will watch this film for the rest of my life, perhaps in bits and pieces as I stumble across it while channel-surfing, but I’ll watch it from now on and happily so.

But let’s be honest. There’s nothing new here. Nothing has been added to the luster of Meryl Streep, Stephen Sondheim, or Little Red Riding Hood. It’s simply cultural comfort food.

And I’m OK with that. I watch old films over and over, and indulge in cutting-edge speculations as to what Frank Capra could have done with a Godzilla film. But I also wonder what would happen if Mr. Sondheim wrote something totally new…specifically for film…specifically for Meryl Streep. That, for me, would be wandering into a woods wonderful and unknown and scary and thrilling.

I’d like that…a lot.

The Provocatively Obtuse

They have always been among us – the provocatively obtuse.

I remember in high school, in every class, there were always one or two kids who would answer “five!” (I believe the exclamation point is important here) to the question “What is two plus two”. Everyone in the class (sans the teacher) would be amused, the provocateur would bask in his/her 14.5 seconds of attention and then the class would move on to the real work at hand. As a group, even then, we instinctively understood we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be long distracted from proven and useful truths. There’s real adult work to be done, real progress to be made. The provocatively obtuse are fun, but not to be taken seriously and not to be called upon too often for serious answers.

Until now.

Cable TV and the internet and this election cycle have congealed into a “perfect storm” for the provocatively obtuse. When polled on candidates and issues, they yell “five!” and their answer is duly recorded, tabulated, and reported as if it were something more than an attempt to amuse and attract attention. AND with a voracious 24/7 news cycle, un-fact-checked viral memes, and candidates more than willing to repeat gruesome legends on national TV, the provocatively obtuse are being called upon more and more often for their nonsensical answers. All in the name of being “fair and balanced”.

This can’t be a good business plan.

I would suggest not calling on those children anymore. Thus, the rest of the class could move on.

If you find yourself near someone who avers; “I’m not a scientist”, accept their word for it and don’t look to them for a scientific opinion. Go find a scientist. Listen to them about scientific things. Hey! That’s how we got to the moon!

If you find yourself near someone who says; “Facts lie”, …………just flee.

The provocatively obtuse; whether they’re in your high school geometry class or running for elective office are hungry for attention. Starve them. You have better and more important things to do.

Flash the Wonder Dog…Meh

janie 86 chloe-futon

Movie night!

I confess. After almost a year and a half, I still keenly feel the loss of my movie-watching canine partner, the late and lamented Lilly the Pup. Lil boasted a voluminous film-watching resume. She watched anything and everything with me and usually had a trenchant point or two to make about each flick. I pretty much granted her opinions great deference, whether about how she would have made a better “Asta” in the “Thin Man” movies, or whether the mailman was making far too many uninvited visits to our front porch.

Hey! That’s why you have a dog in the first place. Capiche?

Curiously, Sprite, my “dumb blonde” tortie, has physically assumed Lilly’s movie-watching spot (two blankets on the futon). I’m not deceived by this into thinking the kitten might have hidden depths. I suspect she also misses Lilly.

Chloe, Lilly’s clueless and constantly ecstatic successor, tries as best she can but…well…she’s clueless and constantly ecstatic. She’d like a play date with Asta.

Lil would have been thrilled with our film selection tonight; THE FLAMING SIGNAL. This super-cheap 1930’s flick features Flash, a Rin-Tin-Tin knockoff, and airplanes, and jungle islands. You can’t miss with a combo like that.

Moments of wonder abound;

  • Flash (a dog, remember) breaks out of his shack/prison, fetches his parachute, crawls under airplane propellers, and stows away on his master’s endurance flight to Hawaii.
  • As the plane plunges to destruction in a storm, Flash’s master puts the parachute on his disobedient pooch and watches from the cockpit as Flash floats to safety on an uncharted island whose roadways (on an uncharted island) are perfectly visible in the camera shot. So…the island is uncharted, but there could possibly exist a road map of the area.
  • Flash’s master has obviously confused his role as airplane pilot with that of a ship’s captain and goes down with his plane. Clearly, the dog is the brains of this duo.
  • Never fear. Flash, having shucked his chute (try saying that three times real fast), leaps into the stormy ocean and drags his master to shore where they immediately encounter an alluring white woman gleefully and provocatively bathing in a SUNNY jungle pool. Where did the storm go?

It just keeps gettin’ better from there.

But none of that is as historically important as Mischa Auer’s role in the show. Mr. Auer plays Manu, the tribal leader of the natives of the island. He makes dour pronouncements by the tribal fire, leads torch-bearing islanders in revolt against the evil trader (who does he trade with on this uncharted island?), gets killed, comes back to life, and gets killed again. I’m convinced that this resilient fellow is the inspiration of the legendary film so admired by Walter Tunis; MANOS, THE HANDS OF FATE.

This is all essential stuff to know and why you keep me around.

By the way, Flash (a dog, remember) eventually saves the day (if not the film) by carrying a torch to a convenient but unexplained (and I assume uncharted) pile of combustible material. The resulting “flaming signal” attracts a passing ship…because of course no other passing ship has ever noticed tribal fires or torches on the island before and thought they perhaps should investigate.

It was great. I loved it.

A Pragmatic Proposal for Peace (Mine)

“Pragmatism! Is that all you have to offer?” – Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead).

I have always enjoyed presidential campaigns. The first I remember paying attention to was the 1964 race in which Lyndon Johnson, riding a tide of popularity as he succeeded the recently assassinated John Kennedy, resoundingly defeated the radical (by 1964 standards) conservative Barry Goldwater.

Then in 1968, at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, I died in Grant Park along with Phil Ochs, Jerry Rubin, the yippies, and Pigasus. Oh, I was home watching convention and the demonstrations on the tube in Lexington, but I died. I was crushed. It was the last time I failed to vote. Nixon was elected. Lesson learned.

I was avid in following subsequent campaigns. I lived for every daily detail. Of course this was before the cable TV 24/7/365 news cycle (glut) and well before the internet. Daily details had to be gleaned from the evening network news half-hour or the morning newspaper. Smoke signals and tea leaves were a poor plan B.

It was the ultimate reality show before reality shows became a reality. I thrilled to it.

This year…not so much.

I’m looking ahead at the next four-plus months at a campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. TV, newspapers, Twitter, and my Facebook feed will be flooded with pictures, information, pseudo-information, out-and-out lies, pundits, and idiots. Stupefying amounts of money will be spent. Friends and acquaintances will share their opinions and their memes. Too often that sharing will not reflect well on the mental acuity of the sharers. I will be dismayed by that.

To what end?

Do we really think anyone’s mind will be changed?

All that money, all that noise, and all that vituperation…what an ordeal.

May I posit an alternative?

Let’s don’t.

Let’s simply stipulate to the logical outcome of the presidential race, save that campaign money (or use it in races for other important elective offices), and give ourselves a peaceful autumn to enjoy the changing leaves and the resurgence of University of Kentucky football (hey, we can dream).

There are clear realities in this year’s race that I believe make this a pragmatic choice.

  • Trump will be the Republican nominee. I know 20% of the population will disagree, envisioning a convention miracle. I also know if you ask the population which coin is worth more; a quarter or a dime – 20% will choose the dime. This is willful contrariness – we can move on – nothing to see here.
  • Clinton will be the Democratic nominee. I know 20% of the population will disagree, envisioning a mathemagical Sanders miracle. See above.
  • Clinton will win the general election. I know 20% of…you know the rest.

I’m not commenting on the rightness, fairness, or wisdom of these realities. They are what they are.

Let’s stipulate the results and spare ourselves…and maybe heal ourselves.

Dang-a-Dang-Dang-a-Ding-a-Dong-Ding

I used to drive around Kentucky quite a bit in my job. Most of the time, it was a great blessing. I love living in Kentucky; the people and the places are precious to me. For example; one evening I drove to Bowling Green to attend their bi-monthly commissioners’ meeting which, by the way, turned out to be a sterling lesson in civility and good government that completely refuted the “government doesn’t work” message that dominates our television news channels. Those smart, well-prepared, gracious public officials efficiently moved through their agenda, addressing issues of waste management, zoning adjustments, car-towing policies, golf course maintenance, personnel changes, and alcohol sales. Every voice was heard. No voices were raised. Decisions were made and accepted. Some of those decisions went the way I preferred. Some did not. Life goes on. I could not have admired the experience more.

Sha-nah-nah-diddy-diddy-bomp…

Then I drove home, fairly late at night – certainly too late to be talking to folks on the phone as I drove (which of course I would never do).

That means I was truly immersed in “Windshield Time”.

Nem-nem-nem-nem-nem-wurp-wurp-wurp-wurp…

Windshield time is akin to dreaming, especially on I-65 on a summer night. The tiny rhythm of the eight million bugs repainting your car with their lives; the mighty rhythm of the eight million trucks buffeting your car while laughing at your rate of speed; giant dinosaurs looming at one roadside attraction; adult bookstores larger than Fayette Mall looming at another… Your mind disengages and works on unresolved issues of the day or, if you’re lucky, it embarks on far more interesting paths not normally taken.

Thus it was this evening.

Doh-doh-doh-doh-ooooo…

I listen to a lot of music in the car. Queued up this particular night was a mini-festival by the pride of Pittsburgh doo-wop group, the Marcels.

In order to truly appreciate the Marcels you have to get past some curious facts. But, as a Trump-supporting friend of mine regularly and blissfully chants; “Facts lie!” Well, these are fairly benign facts. I think we can accept them without destroying the planet.

  1. The Marcels were named after a haircut. The “Marcel Wave” was very popular that year and one member of the group had a family member who was a hairdresser and she suggested the name. Compare this to the opposite dynamic with the Beatles and their hair choice. It became a “Beatle haircut” AFTER their success as a band. Trust me; I know this…all too well, though I think I’ve cornered all the negatives (remember them?).
  2. The Marcels’ vocabulary was amazing, but had little to do with English as we know it. I’m sure they must have been the inspiration for a Mad Magazine piece I recall that quoted a fictional rock singer’s biography entitled; “Famous Syllables I Have Sung”. Everyone has heard the story of how Dr. Seuss was challenged to write a children’s story with only xx number of words and how the result was THE CAT IN THE HAT. I would suggest that the Marcels managed to build a career on fewer words than Dr. Seuss if you deduct the un-definable syllables sung between the legitimate words.

Mum-mummum-mum-bah-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip…

All that given; in my 70mph dreamy opinion there has never been a better version of “Blue Moon” than that of the Marcels…

Bomp-bababomp-bom…

…and their “Get a Job” is an American anthem worthy of being sung before athletic events. Imagine 20-40,000 people with a few beers in ‘em wailing;

Dit-dadit-dit-dadit-doo-doo-didit…

I’m smilin’ at the concept and wonderin’ how this ol’ white-haired hippie might look in a Marcel Wave. An-n-n-n-d woooosh! There goes the Willisburg exit! 44 miles to go.

Lilla-lilla-lilla-lilla-wah-wah-wah…

God bless the Marcels!

A Geezer Remembers; How I Met Tosca

I discovered opera in the Cub Scouts. Now admit it, that’s a sentence you never thought you’d read.

But it’s true. Many times my “reminiscences” are not true and I don’t care, but this one I think will be…mostly.

I was manning a booth in a Saturday afternoon Cub Scout Jamboree being held, as I remember, on the floor of Memorial Coliseum. “Manning”…how quaint…how old could I have been? I was a cub scout lookin’ for a badge.

As I recall, there were not too many people in attendance that afternoon. Thus, my duties were not compelling. To be exact, had I the word “ennui” at that age, I would have relished the chance to use it so aptly.

The adjoining booth was staffed by an adult scout leader who was whiling away the afternoon listening to the Metropolitan Opera Broadcast on WBKY-FM (the call letters were later changed to WUKY). I knew the Cincinnati Reds were playing that same afternoon and I thought I might entice him to switch over to the game. Sly boots that I am, I casually asked what he was listening to.

He just looked at me. I think he was considering how much he could tell me before he’d have to kill me.

How could he explain the love-sick foolishness of Cavaradossi or the jealous foolishness of Tosca or, to put as simply as possible, the un-foolishness of the music…ah.yes, the music? I don’t recall there being an achievement badge for opera.

Finally, he explained; “We’re nearing the end of the first act. In a moment, you’ll hear three gigantic, scary chords. They will announce the entrance of a truly evil, foolish man. His name is Baron Scarpia. His name is also those three chords. If you ever hear them again, be assured he is nearby. If you’re not hearing them on a radio or a stage, I would advise you to flee.”

Sure enough, I heard the chords, and wide-eyed and wide-eared I listened to Scarpia’s scene with Tosca to the end of the act. When it finished, I asked the scout guy what Scarpia had said at the end (the opera being in Italian and my Italian being no better then than it is now). He translated; “Tosca! You make me forget God!!”

Well, my little Southern Baptist jaw dropped at that. I listened the rest of the afternoon and was hooked.

I had experienced grandeur, and largeness of spirit, and the gargantuan tragic foolishness to which humans in a post-Puccini world can aspire. Mostly, I fell in love with Tosca (not liked…loved) and I hated Scarpia (not disliked…hated). My little Cub Scout world had expanded exponentially. My values had not changed, but they were applied to a larger venue. I had been made, not different, but bigger.

Yes, I was hooked and I have gone through decades of being alert for “those three chords.” Scarpia will not catch me by surprise again!