Retired in Delaware wrote a post today called "Pop". It was about his relationship, or lack thereof, with his father. Ron and I became buddies in 1950 while in third grade. I met his father on occasion when I visited Ron at his homes 9he moved three times in that period) and I admit, his father always scared me. He was a big man and always seemed to glare at me.
As to my friend visiting me, I am sure at times my dad might have been there, but my dad wasn't often at home. He was a long-haul trucker and usually on the road. However, this was fine with me. I always worried what my dad would do to embarrass me or upset my friends if he was home.
Our dads were contemporaries. Ron's father died in the year 2000 at the age of 80, and so would have been 91 this year. My dad is still living and is age 92. The men even knew each other at one time, back around when Ron and I were born, both men worked in a steel mill in Coatesville. Both had sons who I guess they couldn't quite understand. Both smoked pipes, although Ron's dad continued smoking all his life and mine quit at some point in middle age. In my youth my dad always seemed to have that pipe between his lips and that is how I sketched him in 1966.
I was also drawn to the photographs Ron included of himself with his dad. I don't know how many he has altogether. He had five on his Blog that ranged from when Ron was a baby until he was in his early forties, and I have pictures Ron sent me of he and his dad as late as 1999. It made me wonder how many photos I had of me and dad together.
I was 25 when the one on the right was taken. It was our June Celebration dinner. My grandmother, mother and I were all born in June. My mother and father were married in June and of course, these dates all fell near Father's Day. I think this restaurant was called The Warehouse and was located outside of Philadelphia, perhaps in Conshohocken or Manayunk. Clockwise from the left sit yours truly, my grandmother, my dad, my mom and my wife.
Perhaps that says a lot about our relationship right there.
In this photo, left to right, is our oldest daughter, Laurel, my wife (no longer a blond), me again, our middle child, Noelle (who looks thrilled to be there) , our son, Darryl, my mom (snapping a picture) and my dad talking to someone elsewhere.
Most the other photos are when I was very young.
This was the first, when I was a little bitty babe of three months, he standing out in the yard at Whitford holding me on a September day.
Here we sit on the porch after moving into Downingtown that December. Both the country house and the city house were rentals and the homes of my maternal grandparents. My mom and pop didn't have a place of their own at this point and when this last picture was taken, World War II had just begun and my dad would soon be sailing away for several years.
A couple years later and I am two and my dad is home on leave. He dressed me up in a look-a-like uniform and they had this family portrait taken.
And then not long after he was off again and gone for a few more years.
One wonders if we would have bonded and been closer if the war had not separated us in those years.
Amazing as it seems, we have to jump ahead 18 years to find my father and I together in another photo. I was just turned 20 by a month when this photo was taken after a fishing trip for tuna out of Indian River Inlet off Bethany Beach, Delaware.
This was one of two such trips.
The other fishing trip.
Someone snapped these photos of us with the catch of the day. Here is my bride-to-be and I, then my dad and the captain of the boat.
My fiancee and soon-to-be wife looks well enough here and she was the first of the crew to catch a Tuna, one of the largest; however, thereafter she was seasick the rest of the day.
And that's all, folks. Just those few photos, almost all before I turned 21, which I guess speaks much about my dad and my closeness.
On the right is my dad's pickup truck (and my teenage shadow taking the photo). My friend, Ron, was humiliated by having to ride in the back of his dad's pickup. I loved riding in the back of this one. That was where I wanted to ride, me and my friend Richard.
We thought it was cool.
There are some stories about that pickup, but for another time.
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Sunday, February 20, 2011
It has been a few weeks since the backwoods trails have been accessible. I decided to drive out in the country and see if any more had become free of the prison of ice since our temperatures have been up. I arrived at the Brandywine Creek State Park at about five to eight, and the gates were closed. This surprised me because I was not aware this park even had gates. I really think they were newly added.
I sat in the road with my left turn signal blinking, wondering if it was a safety issue. We had high winds warnings of gusts up to 65 miles per hour. Maybe it was felt people wandering in amongst trees in such conditions was a bit unwise.
A white van came from the other direction with its blinkers indicating a right turn. "Ha, buddy," I said in my head, "park closed." He pulled in a-front of the gates and I noticed the emblem on the van door. Park ranger, so I pulled ahead, went up the road until I could turn, then came back. When I got back the gates were open and no sign of the van. So here we go, down the main path to Rocky Run. If you would, please join me by watching the following videos I took. It was brisk, it was windy -- oh yeah -- and as usual I got lost in the woods. In other words, I had a lot of fun.
I: Stating Up the Run
II: Into the Deep Woods
III: Run From Sun
IV: Don't Fence Me In
V: Lost in the Wind
VI: Crossing Over
VII: Looking for the Last Trail
Sunday, February 13, 2011
Anyway, I took the plunge or at least stuck my big toe in the literary waters. Hopefully there aren't any sharks swimming about beneath the surface.
This is a critical group. I am not overly fond of the term "critical". It has a somewhat negative aura about it. When you look the word up the first definition is "expressing adverse or disapproving comments or judgments." Well, we don't want to subject ourselves to that! The second definition is somewhat better, "Expressing or involving an analysis of the merits and faults of a work of literature, music or art." Still a little daunting. I prefer the term analytical. I am hoping the comments are encouraging, kindly, and where there is any criticism it is of the constructive kind.
It is always very easy to find fault, to disparage, but the object is to help grow what talent comes, not to destroy careers before they are a career. We don't want any Simon Cows...oops, sorry...Simon Cowells ruining young egos in order to show off his own caustic wit. No, I always believe the object should be to lift people up to as high as they can get. You know, if you are better at something than someone else, you lift them on your shoulder and boost them up, not raise yourself up by standing on their shoulders. I believe if someone has a passion for an art and even a modicum of talent they can be improved into some success. A key here is often that word passion. Some people say they want to be an artist, but have no real passion. They may even have great natural talent, but without wanting to eat and sleep the art, they probably won't have the staying power to make it.
Now granted, some people want to be what they cannot be even if they are loaded with passion. Yet they lack something that makes success possible and it is probably best if someone takes them aside and saves them a lifetime of heartbreak. The key here, though, is takes aside, not humiliate them in front of the world. For example, if I may continue the American Idol theme, take myself. I have a passion for music. I love to sing. I am the type of guy who inside is like a character in a musical, I have a desire to breakout into song at any moment. Problem is, you don't really want to hear me do it. I have a definite tin ear, born with it I'm sure, a little trouble distinguishing sounds and no hope of staying on key.
Someone might say, "But you played instruments." Yes, I did. I played trumpet. I can play a little one-handed piano. I taught myself to play guitar. How could I play them if I have such a terrible ear? Simply because I can read music. I was fine as long as the music was in front of my nose. You see the note on the staff and you just press the right key or plunk the right string. I could get along wonderfully, unless the instrument wasn't in tune. If it was out of tune I might not even notice and if I did, well, it was nearly impossible for me to get it tuned up, especially the guitar. I was not going to have a career as a singer no matter how passionate I was or how long I practiced.
Anyway, what are my apprehensions about joining a writers group?
Most of my apprehension comes from the requirement to analyze and comment on other people's work. I tend to be very positive about what others do, which is not always helpful, but I am very uncomfortable saying something is "bad" in some way. For me it is much easier to take criticism than give it.
I am also in a different place than the others in the group. I am older, generally much older. It is not that the group is a bunch of kids, it isn't, but there is probably no one there within twenty years of me and for most of them the gap is probably thirty or more years. I am at a point where I am not one bit concerned with getting published. Oh, don't get me wrong, it'd be nice, but I am not writing toward that goal. I write what I write and I always have been a bit off skew with others in what I choose to write.
You see, one of the problems with writing (and the same can probably be applied to many other areas as well) is you can't write for the writing or for the reader or for yourself. If you wish to be published, you are writing for an editor. Thus a lot of discussion groups hover around what editors like, what editors look for, what tricks can be used to get the editors attention and what things won't even get your manuscript read by an editor.
Simple thing, send in a handwritten manuscript and it'll come right back with a form rejection. So a person may be the greatest writer since Shakespeare, but without a keyboard and printing device, no one may ever see what they wrote. I realize some handwriting is difficult to interpret, but if a manuscript arrived clearly readable, but hand lettered is it that much trouble to give it a look see?
When I first started writing everything I did was pen (sometimes pencil) on composition paper. I didn't have a typewriter. Where could I go with what I wrote?
I just don't want things to be grammar, spelling, and things that don't fit some textbook outline of how a story should be written. Grammar, misspelling, use of the wrong word, those are little technical things easily fixed. Nice to have them circled for correction, but I hope it doesn't become the main focus. As far as what a textbook says, come on, every noted great artist became so because they broke out of the textbook rules for their genre in their time.
What I am interested in is: Does the story work? Are the characters real? Do they talk like real people? Does it grab your interest? Do you understand the story? Do you understand what is really going on? Would you read it?
One last thing I have found in past groups such as this. There will be many conflicting opinions. There will be many counter ideas thrown across the table. What you look for in all of this babel is the grains of good wisdom and use that. You need to be able not to take advise as well as consider it. You can begin to get totally lost and destroy your own work if you try to take everyone to heart.
I sent in my first piece today. In about four weeks we meet again and I will see what happens. Meanwhile I am looking forward to receiving the works I must read and comment on. It is always fun to see other's approach to this little storytelling gig.
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Greased Skids and Death
Administration of The All Things Deposited Division had been a close group of people. At the time Ross Rollins was nearing retirement, The Kid was still the junior member after 14 years. Ross Rollins was vice president and division manager. He had five section managers reporting to him, Smokey Stover, Amy Tubman, Freda Fireplace, Teah Plucker and Dina Gass, who managed Wire Send and Bend. In the last couple years though, the Wire Send and Bend group had been suddenly moved out of All Things Deposited to Numbing Numbers Division.
It was starting.
Next came the splitting of the division into two smaller divisions and the pushing aside of Teah. Not long after this, Freda Fireplace died. (She was only in her late fifties at the time, but was a heavy smoker and died of lung cancer.). She was replaced by another long-term Unit Manager and chain smoking partner, Daisy Amuzapark.
Then Amy Tubman decided she needed to be free, free at last and retired. A thirty-something named Dudley Doeswhat replaced her. The others in administration were The Old Goat and Viney Thorn. Viney was something called Yak-yakings Coordinator and also The Old Goat’s assistant. The Old Goat had had another assistant named Madonna Honda for several years, who was a contracted agent, not an employee, but Madonna had left to pursue her second job as a Cleric.
You know what they say about whom you know.
It must have been something of the who-you-know magic, because The Old Goat was always mystified about guys like Dudley Doeswhat and now such people jumped over everyone else with such ease. The Old Goat didn’t dislike Dudley. Dudley at least was a worker, but The Old Goat never understood why he was chosen for better things rather than himself. Dudley had graduated from university with a degree in Food Services. I mean, Food Services? He worked in the cafeteria at We Are Independent Trust, but then somehow landed a job working as a proof operator in the Spittin’ Out Data Division. Next thing you knew, he’s moving here and there, much like Flip, magically moving steadily up, while The Old Goat was being kept where The Old Goat was. And now Dudley suddenly comes back to All Things Deposited as a Section Manager, two levels higher than The Old Goat.
The Old Goat came to We Are Independent Trust as The Kid, age of thirty-nine. Fifteen years later at 54, was The Old Goat considered too old for glory?
Meanwhile, Penn Letterer finally does retire fully and reorganization occurs at the top. Cuddy Bear is named the new Chairman, and he will oversee the financial future of WAIT right into the ground a decade hence and be the voice out in the world. Hobart Wazza Goodguy is named President and will be in charge of internal operations. Gil Ferret becomes Senior Manager of We Got Your Back and Wallet Division and another old buddy of Cuddy Bear’s, Gabe Guitar, is named Senior Manager over Numbing Numbers.
And finally Ross retires. It is expected that Smokey Stover will be named the new Vice-President of All Things Deposited by Jim Herring, the new Senior Manager of Info Machine Processing, the Department All Things Deposited Division was then in. Ross had been grooming Smoky as his successor for twenty years. Then came rumors that Jim Herring isn’t going to be the one to make that decision. It will be made higher up, which means by Cuddy Bear really. Cuddy’s selection for the new head of All Things Deposited is Flip Wineberry, who has just turned 33 years of age.
Not long after this Jim Herring also chooses to retire and Gil Ferret is also given responsibility for Info Machine Processing.
This seals Smokey Stover’s fate. Everyone knows he will go no higher.
Now Smoky had “come out of the closet” in the past year and he and his wife went separate ways as he moved in with his lover. Did that have anything to do with his not getting the position he had long dreamed of? That is an unanswered question. It did answer some questions about Smoky and his wife. They had married out of high school and they had two children twenty years apart. Smoky always attended various bank social functions alone, never bringing his wife. The Old Goat met his wife eventually and she had a problem that led one believe it could have been a marriage of convenience.
(Smoky himself died a few years later of cancer. He had been Freda Fireplace’s longtime puffing partner. He was about 55 when he died.)
As Smoky faded in his career, Dudley’s power was growing. He was actually starting to get assignments that normally would have gone to The Old Goat. Flip just didn’t seem to know what to do with The Old Goat it seemed. Meanwhile, older Unit Managers in All Things Deposited began to disappear into early retirement. Their backups weren’t necessarily replacing them either for most were replaced by outsiders. In some cases their units disappeared with them. Some like Mulie Ragingbull, left in a cloud of bitterness, which included the disappearance of all her computer files.
The clear replacement for Mulie was a woman named Mello Yellow. Mello knew everything about the unit, was great at handling people and as nice a person you could meet. But Flip hired a young woman out of Numbing Numbers named Rapunzel. Rapunzel knew nothing about the Unit she now headed, absolutely nothing. She was the manager, but in reality Mello was running everything. Mello just didn’t get the salary or title. It was a mystery why Rapunzel was there. She was an accountant with a CPA for gosh sake. Why would she want a job managing this little paper shuffling Unit? Rapunzel did eventually leave the bank.
Next Viney Thorn had her 55 birthday and suddenly decided on early retirement, and she was gone and not replaced.
Then in January, Flip calls The Old Goat to his office and introduces him to Ernest Healthstriver, another young man on the fast track at the bank at that time. Healthstriver had replaced Flip as head of Sales Uplifting and Ernest was in trouble. The Silly Pilly Program was being rolled out and it was the big buzz word at the bank, the number one priority, and Ernest was having his butt chewed off because he had no way of providing the data needed or of getting needed information out of the old referral system that was to be joined with the Silly Pilly Program. Flip had met with Cuddy Bear and Hobart Wazza Goodguy and they all said The Old Goat was the perfect fit to save Ernest from corporate death.
How was The Old Goat a perfect fit? The Old Goat knew nothing about Sales Uplifting issues or about the Silly Pilly Program. The Old Goat wasn’t a systems guy. The Old Goat had created a cost system in Excel, something of a feat actually, but they needed someone to create an Access Database and tap into a dBase System. The Old Goat had never heard of either. But there was some comments that Flip made that told the The Old Goat he better take this job or The Old Goat might be leaving right behind Viney Thorn.
There was another little catch. The Old Goat was only going to work for Ernest Healthstriver short-term, about 18 months, and then The Old Goat was going to be transferred to Numbing Numbers. Flip had worked out that deal with Yard Perimeter, the new Division Manager of Numbing Numbers. (And The Old Goat had never wanted to end up in the Numbing Numbers area after The Old Goat began working for Ross.)
But off The Old Goat went. Packed his desk contents and moved them to a new desk in a new office in the headquarters downtown. A much nicer office, actually, wood trimmed with windows overlooking the street and another big window overlooking the lobby. Still, The Old Goat lay in bed at night convinced they were “greasing the skids”, that The Old Goat was being set-up to fail and to be forced out the door.
But The Old Goat fooled them all.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
They come and they go
Like traffic flow
Headlamps dissolving in moonlight
Moonlight dissolving with dawn
Momentary tick marks of the day
Seized upon or passed away.
Each week Monkey Man give a challenge to write a poem in 160 characters. Like writing a tweet – it takes some doing to convey thought in so few words. Come join the fun! I discovered him on Moondustwriter's Blog. Please visit them both before time speeds away.
You can read more of my poetry at Old man and the Syllables or Blossom and Weeds.
You can read more of my poetry at Old man and the Syllables or Blossom and Weeds.