Thursday, February 04, 2016
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
It nearly didn’t happen for us. Everything was organised for us to be away for a long weekend to support Amy Goddard and family - carers employed to look after my mother, who is bed bound and 96, and all other appointments shelved for five days - and then what Brits call “the dreaded lurgy” struck both of us down. Cough, bark, splutter, and the usual one-upmanship (which in the modern world should probably be one-up-person-ship - of arguing who was the least worst, whose turn it was to struggle out of bed to make the coffee and find the Acetaminophen.
We should have travelled to a place called Uxbridge on the outskirts of London that I actually knew very well in my pre-teen years, where Amy had a paid gig; and then the idea was to get to Hampshire for her own pre-launch concert the next day. As it happened, we only struggled down to Hampshire and then came back to Wales early afterwards. But we got to the show that really matters - a small venue, but packed out with over 70 people, and where in response to a diminishing number of requests, I still did a support slot, backed by Amy and her husband.
She did her album preview to close the first half. Her support opened the second half, and then the two of them finished the show with a number of standards from Snow Patrol, Extreme, and Simon and Garfunkel, that the audience could join in with. You know the scene - elderly arthritics dancing on the tables, that sort of thing. Her choice of performance slot was deliberate - some of the older ones tend to go home after the first half, but they all heard HER and a number pre-ordered her new album before going home to cocoa and bed.
Her songs from the new album included the title track, Secret Garden and her current single, Near the Sea. A local singer named Andy Adams, who I’ve seen perform before, duetted on The Maiden’s Leap, a Celtic legend song that actually - unbelievably - has a happy ending. You know - she leaps - and for once doesn’t fall to her death and come back as a wailing banshee. Apparently visiting a Scottish castle at a folk festival a couple of years ago, Amy heard the legend, and the sheer incongruity of a happy ending stuck in her mind. Another song was The Highwayman, based on the Alfred Noyes’ poem. Because she had to edit the poem - (even in the folk world, tracks that last 15 minutes don’t go down too well - it’s not exactly Stairway to Heaven) - she had to get permission from the Alfred Noyes’ estate for the edits, which they ultimately gave. She was accompanied by a whistle player and a hammer dulcimer player - apparently the hammer dulcimer has something like a 148 strings to blithely go out of tune at the slightest change of temperature.
The whole was professionally recorded from the sound console, and edited highlights will be on a local radio station in the coming weeks, which has featured Amy in songs and interviews before.
Her husband did the sound - something quite new to him because they were lent the sound system by someone for whom she is building a guitar - adding luthier to her CV or resume. But the sound was spot on.
And what about Occasional’s part? I hear you cry.
Actually, after barking like a dog and frightening the real dog at our accommodation, things held up very well. Dreamers on the Rise is my favorite John Stewart song of all time, but I may describe that in a future post. There is one line in it where you have to let rip - once past that successfully you can relax. As for Wimoweh, that only really works when the audience joins in the backing vocals - so we taught them the bass, and then the alto and soprano parts, before launching in what could have been Wimo-croak. This was probably the best it has ever gone, which may not say much for other attempts, but hey - you’ve gotta put a good spin on embarrassing the family. I may end up on YouTube yet - THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER TRY WHEN YOU REACH (insert venerable age). Perhaps number 1 of a series - How to Grow Old Disgracefully...
One small segment of the audience was a group of people whom I had visited a few years earlier wearing smart suit, tie, briefcase of tricks and orthodontist smile. One fondly hopes that they were suitably gobsmacked by the Hyde incarnation of Brother Jekyll.
Amy told us that the big launch is to be in April. Two shows, one in what is now her home area, and one the following week in South Wales where she grew up and went to school, and possibly a showcase session at a well known folk club in between.. There are radio slots lined up with interviews, and if she gets as many as the last time that should be very encouraging. And now she is known within the limits of her “world” that helps considerably, because so many hopefuls never get past their first album or even first EP. She got her former art teacher to help with the cover art and a former music teacher to play violin on a couple of tracks. Most folk violinists just go with the flow, and improvise each time. A classical violinist often needs all the black dots written out, but since Amy teaches Theory of Music she was able to do the latter. It still sounded genuine and folkie and improvised to me. But as I have known Amy for a good number of years now, perhaps I am a little prejudiced.
I’m sure I will have told the same anecdote before, but apparently she got these same former members of staff from her school to come to her wedding over 15 years ago. As one observed on the day, he knew she’d been trying to inveigle him into her place of worship for years, but wasn’t getting married just a little bit drastic?
Wednesday, January 13, 2016
Monday, January 11, 2016
Even though I’m home and sick, I’m supposed to be working on other things rather than a blog post. But, I just swallowed my daily dose of pills. I’ll sleep them off soon, then swallow the nasty liquid stuff that tastes like wormy apples and an iron supplement gone wrong.
I mentioned on Twitter that we are donating a rare book to a sectarian archive. We’re waiting on a second email from them, because we offered them a related and equally scarce Bible. If they want it, we’ll ship them both at the same time. I hope this loosens their tight, secretive grip on some archival material.
I had coffee with one of my sisters and my artist-illustrator friend. Friend Artist introduced me to the work of a Japanese artist. He calls himself a cartoonist. He straddles the line between fine art and Japanese anime. I’ve put two (I think it’s two) of his pictures on this blog back in the when. His work is lovely, and often disturbing. He paints children as sweet innocents and as sexual objects.
The innocent, lovely pictures would honor any wall they graced. The other pictures, usually equally well done, are medieval and disturbing to the soul. Some of his work is dark without being pornographic. An example is a darkly violent presentation of Alice.
Herewith are some of his paintings. Your opinions?
Monday, January 04, 2016
Stuff That Came Out Of My Head
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."
— The Walrus and The Carpenter by Lewis Carroll
My son noticed that the toilet in the downstairs bathroom was running the other day. He decided to see if reducing the water pressure would help by closing the water supply valve a little. It didn’t work and the valve began to leak. You’d think that a house that is less than 50 years old wouldn’t have these problems, but in the past month we have replaced the plumbing under the sinks in two bathrooms already. So cut to the chase, five trips to the hardware store later we were unable to obtain a new valve that will fit on the end of the pipe. The plumber will be here in the morning.
So that was yesterday. There were snow flurries this morning, but alas I slept through that. My son was happy though. It is his birthday and he was as giddy as he was twenty-odd years ago when he prayed for snow in April and got it. At the time we were suspicious that he had a direct line to God.
I’ve been thinking of ways to get more people to read Rachael’s blog. Then I realized that she already had a way to increase the number of visitors. All I need to do is use some key words in a paragraph that are being searched on the Internet. So if I write something ( Donald Trump) that is totally senseless (furry toe fetish) or completely (naked goat sex) out of context, I just (Oregon Militia) might generate (blonde chicks with guns) more traffic (Islamic gay porn) on the site. Well it’s a thought.
All things national...
As R knows, while respecting local identity and culture, I don’t do national anthems. However, there has been a lot of recent interest in rugby this side of the pond. And - for a day or so, England was out of the World Cup and Wales was still in! So someone sent me a phonetic version of the Welsh National Anthem. It was reportedly used by supporters who - shame, shame - don’t actually know a word of Welsh. It was written by a Welsh poet from Swansea with a good sense of humor - and this is the slightly cleaned up version.
My hen laid a haddock, one hand oiled a flea,
Glad barks and centurions threw dogs in the sea,
My guru asked Elvis and brandish Dan’s flan,
Don’s muddy bog’s blocked up with sand.
Dad! Dad! Why don’t you oil Auntie Glad?
Can oars appear on beer bottle pies?
O butter the hens as they fly.
Devotees of British “culture” and gaffs will remember how not knowing the actual Welsh words harmed the career of a British politician, John Redwood, many moons ago. Appointed as Secretary of State of Wales, he attended some function when they played the national anthem, about which he was obviously clueless, and he desperately tried to mouth along, hoping that no-one would notice. Alas for him, the cameras focussed right up to his mouth and stayed there, and it was a delight on national news for several days.
Yup - my hen laid a haddock indeed.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Sunday, December 13, 2015
The joy of S
By O. R.
I looked up online for how many books started with the Joy of.... The Joy of Shopping...The Joy of Swimming...The Joy of Sex...
This post is all about - the Joy of Shredding...
There are two supermarket chains in Britain that originates in Germany, Lidls and Aldis. They are cheap, not necessarily cheerful, but offer good quality food. But they sell all sorts of weird other things as well. Mixed in with the carrots and potatoes are socket spanner sets and camping stoves. So you head for one of these shops because you have run out of milk. You come home with an art set, a mini sewing machine and an air compressor. Oh - and find you’ve forgotten the milk...
Well, this day they had these shredders. My old one had virtually died on me - two or three sheets and it went red hot, made a rude sound, and stopped. This new shredder was of industrial proportions. A bit like buying furniture online, it suddenly seemed a lot bigger in your home when out of the shop. So, pride of place in my office, to trip over and cover with papers (what is known as my flat filing system) is my industrial shredder. It can shred anything - paper, card, old credit cards, fingers...
But why - I hear you cry - do you need a shredder?
I am a collector. But I got to the point where I wanted my collection to survive should I meet with a truck and the truck come off better. The family humor me, but it isn’t their scene as such. So I am selling original material on eBay. I reason that if people buy stuff on eBay there is a good chance they will treasure it - if only to flog it at a profit later on. And I don’t object to the proceeds in the here and now. But of course over the decades I have also had to make do with photocopies for many items. Before computers I was regularly waiting for heavy parcels of Xeroxed material to come from different parts of the earth - usually America - and taking six weeks to arrive.
But then computers came in and with them the joy of the portable document format. Now everything is on pdf - easily accessible and easily shared. But of course I still have shelves groaning under the weight of photocopies. As the originals diminish, I don’t want the paper copies, I don’t need them. I have destroyed half of the Amazon rain forest obtaining them. So, every so often, I have a shredding session.
It is not that easy. I have to check that I have the material in pdf, and saved in several places first. But then - joy oh joy - a man of simple pleasures - creating mountains of tiny bits of paper, that fall out of bags and stick to your shoes, and somehow get carried to different parts of the house, giving Mrs O the opportunity to display fine Christian qualities like patience and long-suffering.
They recycle here in Wales. So everything has to go out in about half a dozen special containers. There is even a farm nearby (the wife is a patient) that receives local food waste and turns it into gas that powers several thousand homes. So I pack the tiny shredded bits in the special container marked paper, cover it with a couple of newspapers and hold my breath. Sometimes all works well, and sometimes Occasional’s own brand of hamster bedding is strewn throughout the village.
The only trouble is the noise. This shredder does raise the decibels somewhat. But - I’m on a roll - sheet after sheet in quite large multiples gets put through it. On occasion I can hear rare sounds off-stage, but I ignore them - yes, yes, yes, shred, shred, shred. But Mrs O has just appeared at the door. She looks rather flushed. She looks a bit annoyed. Apparently she has been calling, then yelling, then hollering, that my meal is going cold on the table downstairs. Apparently I haven’t heard her. Apparently next time I can enjoy a cold congealed meal on my own if I prefer. Hmm. I regretfully turn to the off switch.
To adapt a phrase regularly heard at British railway stations, shredding services will be resumed as soon as possible.
Monday, November 23, 2015
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Two men were sitting next to each other at a bar. After a while, one guy looks at the other and says, "I can't help but think, from listening to you, that you're from Ireland." The other guy responds proudly, "Yes, that I am!" The first guy says, "So am I! And where abouts from Ireland might you be?" The other guy answers, "I'm from Dublin, I am." The first guy responds, "Sure and begora, and so am I! And what street did you live on in Dublin?" The other guy says, "A lovely little area it was, I lived on McCleary Street in the old central part of town." The first guy says, "Faith & it's a small world, so did I! And to what school would you have been going?" The other guy answers, "Well now, I went to St. Mary's of course." The first guy gets really excited, and says, "And so did I. Tell me, what year did you graduate?" The other guy answers, "Well, now, I graduated in 1964." The first guy exclaims, "The Good Lord must be smiling down upon us! I can hardly believe our good luck at winding up in the same bar tonight. Can you believe it, I graduated from St. Mary's in 1964 my own self." About this time, another guy walks into the bar, sits down, and orders a beer. The bartender walks over shaking his head & mutters, "It's going to be a long night tonight." The guy asks, "Why do you say that?" "The Murphy twins are drunk again."
Thursday, November 05, 2015
“You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There's more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”
Normally I take about six hours sleep. As an internet junkie, I have to search all my various email boxes (five and rising) before retiring, and when I wake, I tend to stagger out of bed just to see what America has been up to while I have been in dreamland. But this night, our second from last before leaving a folk festival in Scotland, I slept for eleven hours. That is unheard of. Not for several decades. I must have been really relaxed, or really tired, or really sung out. But - I did have some weird dreams, and woke up with a start (courtesy of Mrs O) so the memory sort of lingered.
There’s a well-known song in the folk world called Bob Dylan’s Dream. Occasional’s Dream can’t compete with that, and is never going to morph into song.
So, to coin a phrase from Les Mis, I dreamed a dream. I know it is difficult to dream anything else, but if musicals can resort to tautology, so can my blog post. In my dream we were going to a wedding at 5 pm, which is a strange time for the UK. The timing was very precise as was the location, a place called Ebbw Vale. We were taking someone as a passenger - but I cannot remember who. On the way I decided to stop and share in some house to house visits - but why I don’t know. We parked the car and walked into unfamiliar territory which our passenger knew. Mrs O and I got snarled up talking to someone who had a point of view - which is always an improvement on no point of view in my estimation - even if I disagree with it. When we reappeared, our passenger had gone. We retraced our steps, so we thought, to find the car - but got lost. Where were we? No idea. Where was the car? Even more so, no idea. Real men of course never ask directions. After several hours, I remembered the name of a doctor I knew and finally reaching the police station asked where he lived. He greeted us as long-lost friends but didn’t know where our car was either. As it happens, in the cold light of day, the person isn’t a doctor at all; in fact, he is one of the last people I would trust to put on a band-aid. It then got hazy. I am not sure if we ever found the car, or ever made the wedding - in time for the couple to return from honeymoon - because Mrs O prodded me in the ribs and asked what on earth I was mumbling about..?
So it was all very strange.
The night before we had attended concerts, sung ourselves (but will draw a veil over that except that the main festival organiser popped his head around the door and had the temerity to laugh at my serious opus “I Wanna Be Elvis”). But nothing out of the ordinary.
But that night we HAD feasted on what we call over here, a ploughman’s lunch - taken as supper - washed down with a glass or two of red.
I think I blame the pickles.
Friday, October 30, 2015
Monday, October 26, 2015
A DAY OUT
Mrs O and I went to the theater in Cardiff this week and sat in the dress circle. I surveyed a sea of shiny bald heads before me. Was I the only old codger who still had his own hair? We were at the matinee performance of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore.
The average age of the audience was - well, shall we say a bit older than me. Struggling to get refreshments in the interval meant mixing it with assorted walking aids that may have served their owners well, but risked Occasional taking a header straight into the bosom of the girl selling ices on the stairs.
I have a soft spot for HMS Pinafore. The daft plot revolves around the old English attitude towards class, and double standards, and patriotism, and cronyism. The “ruler of the Queen’s Navy” (that is Queen Victoria) gets his position through never going to sea. And the plot device - babies switched at birth was sort of reused by W S Gilbert’s scripts rather a lot. If you liked old-fashioned British humor, irony and puns, and knew a bit about late 19th century British society, you would be in your element. And if you didn’t, but just liked silly songs and silly dances - well, you could still enjoy it.
My grandfather used to produce G and S operas at the Alhambra Theater, Bradford, in the 1920s. My grandmother, who was always short and rotund, played most of the comic middle-aged women for him in these operas. Gilbert had a very cruel streak to him when it came to writing about women of “a certain age” - and “Little” Buttercup in Pinafore was one of my grandmother’s favorites. After some bad experiences with people ripping off their stuff - generally featuring America - G and S tied down their domestic productions to the letter of the dialog and stage directions. It was only when the copyright expired 50 years after Gilbert’s death that things could be relaxed. The first “unauthorised” production by Sir Tyrone Guthrie in London was of HMS Pinafore. My grandmother was still short and rotund, but a little old lady by then, and took me as a young lad to see it. She spent the whole performance noting how they’d changed a lyric here, and changed the stage around there, and that bit of “business” - THAT wasn’t in the original.
Now of course G and S can be done every which way. We used to go regularly each year to the festival held in the Spa Town of Buxton, and various companies rang changes with modern dress, modern references in patter songs, and even audience participation. But last year we did America instead. This year we did rather a lot of folk festivals, so this theater trip was our only G and S experience for a while. But we knew the theater company and had seen a number of the cast before. They had ‘done’ the regular festival in the summer and were now taking out three operas in three days on tour.
The age of the audience probably reflected the time of day, as well as the age of the material. But at G and S festivals we have seen audiences full of teenagers laugh at fellow teenagers performing. And very good they were too. We have seen university drama clubs put on the operas - generally very badly. But probably the worst experience was a university production we saw - not at the festival, but at a theater linked to a university on the British South Coast. They put on The Yeoman of the Guard, which is a lot more serious than the rest of the canon. But there was one violin in the orchestra that was out of tune. Only slightly, but with a violin that is more than enough. Every time the orchestra struck up, there was this off-putting sound - off-putting to both the audience and increasingly to the players as they tried unsuccessfully to keep straight faces and stay in tune. A gentle murmur and titter sort of increased each time the offending instrument struck up and totally trashed the pathos of the piece. We thought that at half-time they would do something about it, but maybe the player was a professor’s wife or a director’s girl-friend or something. She stayed. We contemplated leaving. But there are some things in life you can still enjoy for all the wrong reasons.
Perhaps my worst G and S experience was a version of The Pirates of Penzance we saw at an open air theater at the Welsh Folk Museum at St Fagans. The players were good, the weather was good (always a plus for open air) and we were all set to enjoy the afternoon, when the two seats next to me were finally occupied - about ten minutes after the start of the performance. A gentleman who could probably have made the record books for obesity, came and plonked himself down next to me, and on top of me - so great was the overlap. A very strange grey-haired old lady who may have been his mother, sat on the other side of him. As the singers were getting into their stride with “We Sail the Ocean Blue”, he suddenly started eating his packed lunch. I remember it was a strange kind of salad that would normally feed four, which required a plastic fork, which he promptly lost down the back of the seat in front. His mother downed a bottle of coke - from the bottle - which was incongruous to say the least, and then decided that she needed to go to what Americans quaintly call “the rest room”. I may have remarked before in a long-forgotten piece, but in Britain these are not rooms where you would choose to rest or even linger longer than necessary - certainly not when attached to an open air museum celebrating the joys of the past. Back and forth she came several times. At the interval we thought they had gone and breathed a sigh of relief, but five minutes into the second half, they were back - for more.
What made the experience memorable for all the wrong reasons is that I knew about thirty in the audience. We had very recently visited a congregation for a week’s visit, and they had all seen us in smart suit, smart bag, encouraging smile, that sort of thing. I think they’d obviously organised a sort of group outing, and just seeing us there in casual clothes was a novelty. But when they saw our plight, you could see it made their day. Forget G and S - watching Occasional (although they didn’t know him as such) be swamped and crushed and battered throughout the performance, sort of gave them a spring in their step - even though they were seated. I can still see them all trying to keep straight faces and shove handkerchiefs into mouths, while making continual covert backward glances throughout the performance. I know from later contact that many of them also gleefully remembered that day - and it wasn’t opera that made it.
But what is it they say about humor? It’s nearly always based on someone else’s misfortune.
Friday, October 16, 2015
“Plastics” was one of the funniest lines said to Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. But “plastics” is currently BIG news in the UK.
England has recent gone over to charging for plastic bags previously given away by supermarkets and other shops. It has created a furore. One paper, The Daily Mail, shrieked in a headline “PLASTIC BAGS CHAOS LOOMS!”
Previously the population had regularly been issued with several dozen plastic bags each time they went shopping, which were then bundled into cupboards and drawers back home, causing near tragedies as housewives and househusbands could be easily buried under them just opening a cupboard door.
Then adding them to landfill, with a 500 year degradable date on them (give or take a decimal point or two) the practice was obviously leading to the ice caps melting and polar bears coming south to roam in the streets in leafy suburbs and feasting on little old ladies.
But now - no more free bags. If you wanted a plastic bag, now you had to pay - at 5 GB pence a bag. Apparently, rather than spending out their small change, the worthy salt of England were now making off with the wire baskets and shopping trolleys normally left at the supermarket entrance. Whether it was leading to cupboards full of purloined shopping trolleys in place of the bags was not revealed by the anonymous researchers who shrieked that this was Plasticbagageddon - or the end of civilization as we know it.
As an Englishman, long resident in Wales, it has to be noted that this new law has already been operative in Wales for several years.
Amazingly enough, the world has continued to turn in Wales. For a start, every 5 pence spent on a bag was not kept by the store, but the law dictated that it had to be donated to charity. In just a year or so there was a report that around 90 thousand GBP had been donated to charity as a result. So even if you bought a plastic bag you still felt a bit virtuous about it.
But then it tailed off. Why? Because now when we go shopping we all take our own bags. We have learned the lesson that officialdom wished us to learn in the beginning - reuse, recycle, don’t keep on dishing out unfriendly plastic that doesn’t degrade and kills wildlife if left in the wrong place, and previously filled cupboards with detritus.
It may smack of what is sometimes called here the Nanny State, but this time, it’s an idea that really has worked in Wales - without revolution and social upheaval. England - over to you.
Monday, October 12, 2015
A Son’s Inheritance “I need to tell you something important my son.” Father breathed heavily and shifted uncomfortably as he sat up in his bed. I had just brought him a cup of strong broth and we were alone in his chambers. I pull a chair close and leaned in to listen. “I need to tell you about the portal. High up in the mountains where the spring flows that begins the stream that becomes the Great River.” He paused to sip the broth and take several breaths before he continued. “There is a cave. Follow the right wall until you reach the portal.” “What is this portal, Father, and why tell me, your youngest son?” “Because it is your inheritance. I know, I know,” he patted my hand. “I will give you land and a house, your rightful share, but I know your brothers. I am sad to say that they won’t obey my wishes and allow you to keep what is rightfully yours.” “The portal is a doorway to another world. It’s a world like ours, but inhabited by a different people. I can’t tell you much about it. I was only there twice and I had a pixie for a guide.” “A pixie? One of those foul, blue insects that spoil the milk, and scratch and bite the babies?” “No my son. These are larger, looking human like us, except for the wings, and female.” He smiled… “Very female. Her name was Sha’leya and she showed me the portal and how to use it.” “And this portal leads to her world?” He shook his head and took another sip from his cup. “No. Their world and many others are reached through different portals. This one leads to one world where I was able to gain a small fortune and return here to build our holding and grow it to what it is today. You may find another portal there. This other world, Daventh, is something of a crossroads. Many travellers can be found there wandering through its wonders.” He was stopped by a racking cough that left him weak and sweating as he fell back into his furs. I sat by his side holding his frail hand. The room slowly darkened; the only light coming from the flickering flames of the hearth. Finally he gripped my hand with only a small measure of its once great strength. I moved closer and he finished his story, whispering his secrets to me with his final breaths. He died that night and I wept.
Thursday, October 01, 2015
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Thursday, September 24, 2015
Monday, September 21, 2015
Pasco, Washington, is a grubby little town in Eastern Washington. It’s plagued by a steady flow of illegal immigrants. The schools are poor quality. The police force is a mix of experienced officers who do their jobs well and self-entitled trolls who do not respect the laws they were hired to enforce. (I’m thinking of one officer named after a recreational area.) Still, it has its attractions. When we drive up to Uncle B’s, I always stop in Pasco, assuming I have time. For a store … with used books and junk. The store is as grubby as the rest of Pasco, but it does have books. So I stop.
Probably someone familiar with Pasco is mentally protesting. There are ‘nice’ neighborhoods in Pasco. Yes, sort of, mostly low-cost but newer houses. I won’t discuss that with you. Pasco is a pit. A big smelly pit.
But elsewhere on this blog I’ve mentioned my interest in road archaeology. I find abandoned and changed-use roads fascinating. I walk long disused trails, logging roads, dead streets and ghost towns. It’s relaxing and fun. Pasco has interesting ‘road bits.’ The main route through Pasco is Lewis Street. Back in the day US route 410 (long since abandoned or re-designated) ran through Pasco using Lewis as its route. On the east end one can find a series of motels and cabins from the 1940-1950 era modified into apartments. Rerouting traffic around the village killed the motels.
2015 E. Lewis
This motel was updated at some point. Many of them were given new siding and a coat of poor quality paint. This one is full of Mexican immigrants, families that stuff themselves into a single room.
The old gas stations are mostly gone. This one (at Cedar and E. Lewis) remains, though they no-longer pump gas. It was a salvage yard for a while, and some of that junk remains. Pasco tolerates the mess. They have other things more urgent to tend to, such as the mentally ill street people that are dumped into residence homes and left to wander the streets, steal beer, and throw rocks at cars.
This is all that remains of a gas station directly across the street from the one pictured above. It appears that the tanks have never been remediated.
Saturday, September 19, 2015
The Plot Thickens...
From a young age I have enjoyed detective stories. I probably started at kindergarten with Enid Blyton’s series about the Five Find-Outers, with the regular policeman called Mr Goon and portrayed as an idiot. Words like “politically incorrect” sort of come to mind today. Indeed, an internet search shows that contemporary reprints of the Blyton canon have censored them for the fragile sensibilities of modern readers.
But it was when I went up to the ‘big school’ that I discovered Agatha Christie. My obsessive nature had already kicked in, because I know that I read 36 of her books, probably straight off. How did I know? Because I made a list of everything she’d written up until then, and crossed them off as I read them. I know it totalled 36 because something snapped inside my head at that point, and I gave a scream, threw a book across a school corridor, and didn’t touch another Agatha Christie for many decades.
A contributory factor was no doubt discovering John Dickson Carr – the master of the macabre. For Carr, character was two dimensional, pure cardboard. All that mattered was the puzzle. He specialised in the principles of conjuring, and “magic” often featured in his plots. Impossible mysteries, particularly of the “locked room” variety, were his speciality. You could forget the cardboardity of character – all that mattered was not even whodunit, but HOWdunit?
I came to Carr via the radio. He’d lived in Britain for many years, and actually wrote many radio plays himself that were broadcast on the CBS network in the States. But Britain had a reputation for much longer plays than those normally heard on American radio – basically because the need for sponsors and advertisers never reared its head for the BBC. I remember being glued to my valve portable radio (the size of a large brick) under the bedclothes, listening to Carr’s The Hollow Man, hoping that a parent wouldn’t come upstairs and make me turn it off.
The Americans called The Hollow Man, The Three Coffins. This was a shame, because in a sense, it spoiled one of the plot twists. But there were two impossible murders in the same book.
A professor warns his friends that he may receive a strange visitor and be in danger. They are to watch the door of his study, but not intervene unless called to do so. A strange visitor does indeed come to the house, wearing a mask. Obediently they let him hammer on the professor’s door. The professor opens and there is a scuffle. The visitor forces his way into the room and the door is slammed shut. Concerned witnesses knock on the door but are told to go away. Then a little while later a gunshot is heard. Battering the door down, they find the professor dying on the floor from a gunshot wound. But – there is no gun. And no second person. He’s gone. He’s been the Hollow Man. There is no conceivable hiding place. OK, so the window is wide open, but there is snow on the ledge and it appears that only Spiderman could have exited that way.
Next chapter, a man is walking along the middle of a road in the snow. There are several witnesses to events including a policeman. A voice shouts “the second bullet is for you” and a gun is fired. They race to the man who has fallen down, shot in the back. The gun is lying in the snow a few feet from him – no fingerprints of course, and footprints in the ever-convenient snow show that no-body else had been near him.
Those were two of the three coffins in the American title.
Whodunit? More important, how was it done? WELL, I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU, AM I! You will just have to read the book, or cheat and Google it.
Another one was called The Reader is Warned - and the subsequent radio serial The Listener is Warned. It was all about a strange character called Pennick, who claimed he could think you dead. And if he did, you were! And - horror of horrors - THE NEXT VICTIM COULD BE YOU!
It was written at the start of the Second World War, and I guess the idea of thinking murderous thoughts and Hitler and Mussolini falling off their perch to order, sort of struck a popular chord in Britain.
It is probably safe to say that a modern CSI unit would make short work of the problem, but in Carr’s day it worked.
Carr, like all good detective fiction writers from the “Golden Age”, was a master of deception. It’s like the magician’s scantily-clad female assistant bouncing around on stage. She causes men in the audience to focus all eyes on her face (I said HER FACE, her face which is UP HERE) and their female companions in turn to glower at THEM – all to give the performer his edge in the art of misdirection. In like manner, Carr spun a convoluted web with added attractions that made you miss the “clues” that were staring you in the obvious. It meant that books were often read a second time, unless of course you cheated and read the end first!
Decades later I tried to return to Carr’s work, but apart from a couple of exceptions (the above two being examples) I now found much of the canon unreadable. So I sold off the collection to help pay for my daughter’s wedding. Did very well out of it too.
Nowadays, I still like puzzles, but character and wit of writing score much higher. So I read writers like Josephine Tey (Golden Age) and Ann Cleeves (modern) for character, and Simon Brett and Catherine Aird for wit – this is my favorite chewing gum for the eyes of the moment. The puzzles seem to do better as radio plays or as TV or film dramas.
As Sherlock Holmes never actually did say in the books – it’s elementary my dear Occasional...
Wednesday, September 16, 2015
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Friday, September 04, 2015
When I was first interested in my Pet Scotsman, and really too young to be thinking about boys, we would sometimes find each other near a boat launch. There’s a park nearby and a bit of wooded area. We would sit on a park bench and watch the boats drift or speed by. And we talked endlessly.
This was a bit of disobedience. If our parents had known, there would have been a minor earthquake …. felt clear in China. But we behaved ourselves. This is an important part of our life. Our chatter led us into the other's heart and mind. He was and is one of the few people to actually listen to me. I’m full of nonsense. I know this. He knows this, but he loves me for it, not in spite of it.
Other things happened too, not related to him. I crashed by bicycle down a steep embankment. A police officer saw me pushing my nearly ruined bike up a steep hill toward home. He dumped me in his car and my bent bike in the trunk and drove me home. I still see him sometimes. He is long retired but lives near my aunt and uncle, and when we drive there, I make a point of at least calling him.
Knobby Knees and I volunteered for an archaeology project that summer, and both of us were accepted. We got to play in the dirt and had loads of fun.
I suppose our first really serious conversation took place in a bowling ally. My oldest sister was part of a bowling team, and I tagged along. Knobby knees showed up with some of his friends and treated me to a Coke and fries. He snuck in a kiss, my first ever by a boy other than my dad, which I thoroughly enjoyed. And yes, I was too young to be kissing anyone but my family. But, well, we did.
My grandma moved in with us that year. She was old, spoke with a thick accent, and loved me dearly. She was my confidant and put up with my nonsense. That summer I was into biology in my own way. I decided to find out what life was like back in the distant when and told everyone I wasn’t bathing for two weeks. I didn’t either, even though I felt crawly and smelly. I had a bit of spaghetti sauce I refused to wash off, and was probably pretty crusty. Near the end of my experiment, gramma politely said, “Liebchen, a bath might be in order now.” I agreed and soaked in a hot bath for maybe a half hour or more. It was paradise.
I miss gramma endlessly. More, I think than my mother, and I loved my mother.
When KK was accepted to Georgia Tech, I was depressed. I was accepted at the local branch campus of WSU. It let me live at home and still get a quality education. But KK was off to the nether regions of the USA to become a “hell of an engineer.” Most of our loose change went into phone time and we burned up AOL’s instant messenger service.
My last year at WSU I moved into an apartment not far from my parent’s house. I shared it with a classmate, older than I by five or six years, and wild and emotionally unstable and lacking in good judgment. I felt like I was her mom some days, and nursed her through boy friend drama and bad decisions. We’re still friends.
Eventually Knobby knees moved back, and we where married. I’ve told something about that earlier on this blog. We lived briefly in an apartment attached to my parents house. (They’d just bought it) And though we had our privacy, we soon found a place of our own. In not many weeks, my grandpa died. He left me a house he had built in 1940, just months before World War 2 came to America. So we moved. My parents and his eventually moved to the same place. And though my mom died some years ago, my dad and his newish wife and my in-laws live within walking distance of our house. Two of my sisters and their families live here too. It makes it more or less cozy as family goes.
Babies came along. I like my babies, though they’re long past babyhood. They don’t appreciate how parents worry about their children. One of them finds it a bit annoying, but it doesn’t stop me from checking on them at night. They hardly ever notice.
Various relatives have come and gone. I like my pet Scot’s family. His mom and my mom were close friends. I loved his one uncle who encouraged me to write and helped me to become at least a little tolerant of other’s behaviors. And then there is his uncle Andrew who is naturally funny. He has a very dry whit. And my children think he is a font of love and humor.
In many ways I like his extended family far better than my own. There are expectations. One of my cousins lived with us for about 18 mos years ago. We resembled each other so closely, people thought we were twins. We email daily, talk on the phone frequently. She married a Frenchman (gasp!), but they live in NYC. He works for the United Nations. So we see each other at least once a year for a week or two. She’ll always be one of my best buddies.
My oldest has a love interest, or I should say he likes her. My daughter looks at him with some interest but sees real drawbacks to that relationship. I do try to cultivate good sense in my daughters. It doesn’t always take, but often enough to please me.
So how is your life?