The last time Weetzie stayed over at Casa T, we watched the movie, Love and Mercy; a biopic about Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. The story was in two parts: the intersection of his complicated past and resolution with the present. Younger Brian was played by Paul Dano and John Cusack portrayed the vintage Wilson. Elizabeth Banks bore an uncanny resemblance to Melinda Ledbetter, a woman who came into Wilson’s life in the 1980s, and appeared just in time to release Brian from the grip of a demonic psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Landy (Paul Giamatti). Suffice it to say, all remarkable performances.
Because of it, I have developed a latent obsession with the Beach Boys; unceasingly researching music reviews, watching videos and listening to podcasts about their atypical lives, creative forces, and their incredible catalog of music. What took so long, and why?
Being a post-war boomer, I came of age when the Beatles first stepped foot onto the sandy shores of our side of the pond, appearing on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. Yeah, the Beach Boys were making hits that were fun to dance to, and reminded us of all the fun of distant and future summers (especially when sitting in math class). On the other hand, the Beatles brought out a new weird and wonderful feeling inside of me that my naïveté could not yet identify…hmmmm.
Taking a time-out to digress…We didn’t see “The Story of Menstruation” film until fifth grade. The reassuring voice of the female narrator told us that this bloody mess was to prepare us for eventual babies of our own, but never explained how babies got there in the first place. Could these new sensations possibly lead to the beginning of the final act of producing a baby? (Oh, wouldn’t it be nice!). But that was Catholic school for you, where a lot of “mysteries” were never clarified.
I consulted my therapist about this affliction that was beginning to spook me. Marnie told me that more than likely, I found contentment in their music as a relief from stress, and showed that I had the capability to appreciate fine works of art (at the same time, probably scribbling FUBAR on her yellow legal pad). I have always had an insatiable appetite for biographies; reading them in an attempt to figure out the impetus for a life lived, and what propelled the person towards (un)wanted notoriety and (mis)fortune.
It took me 50 years to give audience to the Beach Boys 1966 release of the album Pet Sounds, now considered to be one of the most influential records in American music. What can I say? Appreciation works at its own speed. At that time, a mental breakdown and sheer exhaustion caused Brian to quit touring with the band to stay at home where he felt more at ease, and to write, “the greatest album ever made.” If these songs were released today, we would probably accept it as being just another fab compilation produced by the group. But the concept of Pet Sounds was light years beyond the then tried-and-true, rock ‘n’ roll money making formula to be taken seriously here in the States. Fans in England and Sweden named the Beach Boys as being their “favourite group;” a notch above their own homegrown Beatles. (Add a little “Norwegian Wood” for good measure). After Lennon and McCartney replayed an acetate copy of Pet Sounds sessions over and over, they began to clone the same soundwave for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Commercially, Pet Sounds became a losing proposition for Capitol Records.
The movie focused on Wilson’s use of unconventional sounds, alien to 60s rock compositions. The tympani, sleigh bells, bass harmonica, harpsichord, various strings, brass, and winds; even a bicycle horn and a Coke can for percussion, became the “orchestra” of instruments played by musicians borrowed from Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound group called, “The Wrecking Crew.” The soundtrack was imagined by Brian, most of which had been the result of auditory hallucinations reverberating between his ears (one of which was 96% deaf), propelled with an elixir of not only Norwegian Wood, but Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds. (In one YouTube documentary “Beautiful Dreamer,” Brian discusses how he actually “saw” the notes appear like a vision in front of him). Most lyrics of Beach Boys songs had been penned by Mike Love. Instead, Tony Ascher stepped up to the plate, and wrote some of the most endearing lines this music planet has ever heard…. kinda like what Jesus would whisper in your ear if you earned your angel’s wings. Every time I play a cut from Pet Sounds and additional records from the Beach Boys, it seems as though I’m hearing it for the very first time. Some new gold nugget is always uncovered in any one of its measures and key shifts.
If you ask my own wrecking crew, they will vouch that my emotional sensitivity bubbles up to the surface whenever I listen to music. I weep when I hear our National Anthem played gloriously at the Olympic Games. I simulatenously conduct Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and drive my car. (I’m sure there is some kind of law against that). And now, I endlessly loop Beach Boys songs on my iPhone and in my head. My iTunes bill is through the roof!
Marnie, you were so right. There IS a built-in comfort zone in the soundtrack from a simpler time. (“Why Do Songs From Your Past Evoke Such Vivd Memories?“). Attempting to unravel and master their 6-part harmony is an entertaining challenge, especially if you can hit Brian’s falsetto range. As Wilson once said, “We make happy music. We want people to be happy when they hear our songs.” The Beach Boys, individually and collectively, lead lives that were permeated by extreme highs and lows, like a modern-day tragic opera. But, like Beethoven or Van Gogh or Oscar Wilde or any artist who endured critical torture for their visionary perspective somehow created the greatest works in cultural history. Add Brian Wilson to the company of his fellow geniuses. So, if something such as Pet Sounds, any Beach Boys song, or ANY song for that matter soothes my soul and untangles synapses in my mind; please press REPEAT.
Quick. Think about a man you really admire. Just keep that vision in your head for a second.
Now, imagine that guy was your father. How different would your life have been if this was for real?
Throughout my childhood, I prayed that my father would leave, and mom would instantly marry John F. Kennedy or Jimmy Stewart or John Glenn. Guess the nuts don’t fall too far from that Nutmeg Lane tree…I’m sure by now you know of my delusions of becoming Mrs. Jimmy Page! (BTW, Jimmy… I’m still available).
On this Father’s Day of 2016, with my ramblin’ stint cut short, I spent some time reading the sincere messages posted on Facebook, for fathers who are still alive, or those dearly departed. How fortunate these people are to be celebrating fabulous fathers.
The only time I ever posted a photo of my father, or wrote about him was on Veteran’s Day. He served in the US Navy during WW II guarding the Panama Canal, (and perhaps creating an extended family of our half brothers and sisters while on leave.)
We never heard much about his time in the service, although when schnockered, he would always dramatize how he gunned down Japanese fighters with Pappy Boyington’s Flying Tigers. It took awhile to glue the pieces of that fable together, because for a long time, I actually believed him. My father was in training for his pilot’s license after the war, but for whatever reasons that deal vanished into thin air. He also watched Notre Dame football games, all the while tackling ghostly apparitions in his head, scoring the winning touchdown for coach Knute Rockne.
Nada, nothing. Dad attended the University of Bridgeport (CT).
My mother used to call him, “Walter Mitty,” the main character of a short story about a man who would daydream of being everything else he was not.
My father was always quiet, and barely spoke to my brothers, sister and I, except when we were being punished. I never knew what his father’s voice sounded like. Whenever we would visit our grandparents, “Pop” just sat, stone-cold in his chair. Currently, I have come to the realization that my dad was a very shy person. But, a-ha, the magic elixir of quart upon quart of Rheingold beer would churn-up the flip side of his persona. His parents lived by the steadfast tenet, “Children should be seen and not heard.” My guess is that he didn’t have a multiple choice option on that measure of child-rearing.
Without airing all of the dirty undergarments, I’ll just hang out my laundry by saying: My father was not a very nice man. It was confusing as all hell for Little Jackie’s brain to kick around. Was it because of his own mistreatment as a child, lack of realization of his own dreams, or not having any stellar role model to emulate? Or was I one of the cubs that should have been eaten upon birth? A father’s job is to love their children. If he truly did, dad sure had an irrational way of expressing it.
Yet, there were some bonding moments that I call, “one-inch snapshots.”
One lazy summer afternoon, the neighborhood gang of kids and I were playing about two blocks away from where we lived. When I saw my dad driving up the street in our big-ass white Buick, I waved him down to stop. “I want to drive the car!” Dad let me sit in his lap, and I ferociously gripped the steering wheel, while dad controlled the gas and brake pedals. Hot dawg, wasn’t I the coolest kid in the world? I commandeered that car like a professional. Never realized that he had one hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. Whomp.
Another time, he took me over to Fairfield University athletic field, where the 1960 NY Giants held practices and scrimmages. (They played regulation games at Yankee Stadium, and had no other place to toss each other around. Before long, they were asked to leave prim and proper Fairfield because of the general ruckus the players would cause every Friday night). The squad was so far away from view and, heck; what did I know about football? I went along so I could become closer with my father. Little did I know that he took me to witness one of the best teams in NFL history. (Check the link for the roster).
Here’s a Kodak moment for you: my family and I were sitting around our Formica kitchen table having supper. I spied a Maxwell House Instant Coffee jar atop the refrigerator, filled with a dark gray liquid. I asked my mom, “What is that stuff?” No answer. I asked again and again. Finally, my father found some unforgettable words of wisdom. “If you drink that stuff, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO SHIT FOR THE NEXT 20 YEARS!!!”
Ooooh-kay. (Beat’s me, as to what was in that jar).
When I became a teenager, I was never called, “Princess” or “Sweetie,” but some rather nasty words that degrade women. How could I be a slut if I wasn’t even dating anyone? Was he trying to censor his own sexual urges about this beautiful young, but naive woman? Being a teenager was cagey enough, but to be called words that were written on the bathroom walls? I don’t think so.
Ticket to ride to 1985….my father lay in a coma in a hospital after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. My siblings and I sat by his bedside, silently listening to the machinery that was keeping him alive. The ICU nurse came over and berated us. “Speak to your father! He can hear you!” I wanted to slap her upside the head and scream, “We haven’t talked to him for the past 30 years. Why should we start now?”
Hey, dad. How ’bout those Yankees?
Phil Collins’s “One More Night” was the at the top of the charts that month. Phil’s sad refrains echoed our own twisted spin on the lyrics. “Does dad want to live one more night?” (I’ve been trying ooh so long to let you know/Let you know how I feel). Were we covertly hoping that he only had one more night to live? (One more night/cause I can’t wait forever).
My folks were the original poster models for “Less Than Perfect Parents.”
Sometimes, I can comprehend that they functioned according to what they had been given; other days, I still dream about calling John Glenn, “Dad.” My brothers and sister and I all survived an undercooked, kept-under-the-covers dysfunctional childhood, and have all become somewhat decent people.
I will always have 11.5 chromosomes that belonged to my father, and that can never change. (Thanks for the arthritis, dad.) Now and then, I see your Lithuanian heritage in my own face. As I listen earnestly to Beethoven’s 5th Symphony while I write this post, I know that you bequeathed a love of classical music, great reads, and I can follow a football game without, well, too many questions.
My soul becomes more deflated, each time another day of summer is X-ed off of the calendar. Next week begins the tilting of the earth’s axis in tune with the autumnal equinox, which is all well and good with its lovely scents and color palate, but it has the unforunate spot in line as being the precursor to winter. Blah. Shesheben‘s days are in demand but short in supply. (Shesheben is the name of my faithful kayak, which means “Little Duck” in Chippewa), I decided to take advantage of the gorgeous day given by nature, and took off on a three hour tour. A THREE HOUR TOUR! (Cue the music!)
My game plan was to start in Oyster Bay, but saw that the waterfront was a beehive of activity–beach cleanup day, Opti sailing race, and bulldozers in the way of my secret put-in. Earlier this week, I had thought about paddling around Cold Spring Harbor (CSH), but didn’t think today would be the day to do so. It was.
I don’t like the put-in at CSH. It’s on a slanted, slippery boat launch off of a busy road. The beach at the put-in is a spit of sand, and you have to leave your vehicle across the street in a parking lot that could rival the Grand Canyon on potholes. Luck would have it that one kind soul backed out of his parking spot upon my arrival.
Traveling the waters of CSH harbor reminded me of a kayak club (of sorts) that existed many years ago. The leader (now thankfully retired) was the Khrushchev of the Kayaks; however, regardless of his barking orders, I met some of the funniest, wackiest people on those excursions. I decided to follow the route we had paddled so many times before.
The tide was coming in, and a lot of boat wake was forming in the harbor channel. Now that I am a somewhat seasoned kayaker, I forged ahead through the bombardment, and rocked ‘n’ rolled with the waves. (I can actually feel the motion as I sit and type). The course guides one past the modern CSH Laboratories, where Nobel Prize winner Barbara McClintock once worked on gene studies; and alongside some very big homes built by old fortunes made in the Roaring 20s.
About an hour into the paddle, I needed to cross the open bay where speed boats with powerful outboard motors six times my size criss-cross and create a sloshy, large wake. I felt like an owl, turning my head left and right with each muscled stroke, to make sure I wouldn’t be chewed up and spit out by someone’s propeller. Once on the eastern side, I paddled into a lagoon, where the sea is calm, and the water runs fresh and clean from an ancient underground cold spring. (I think you get the drift). I pulled up to refill my water bottle. (Oh, by the way… if you read my obituary online on Sunday, you’ll know that the water was not safe to drink).
Gazing north towards Cooper’s Bluff and Long Island Sound, I decided to make that the destination of the day. Yes, I was tired, and my back was achy-breaky, but felt the need to reach the area where sound meets bay; soul meets body, just to indulge my pursuit of personal achievements. The water there was VERY choppy (2 foot swells), but once again, Sheshe handled it like the pro that she is. In my head, I was trying to recall the how to hold the low-brace position of the paddle, just in case a wave decided to flip the boat upside down for kicks. I didn’t quite paddle to the point of conjunction of the two bodies of water; (my back and legs needed to stretch), but this is the farthest point I have traveled on this particular route.
What a glorious view of Long Island Sound, and whatever town sits in the distance on the Connecticut shore line. (Hello, DreaDragonfly!)
Wow. An epic journey. I was stoked.
I had a lot of stored up energy for the “going,” but now the going was getting tough on the return ride of the round-trip ticket, paddling in opposition to a gusty wind from the southwest and an outgoing tide. Sheshebens had to do most of the navigation at this point.
John Lennon once shouted, “I GOT BLISTERS ON MY FINGERS,” and now I fully understand what he meant. Never before have I
prayed cursed so much and pushed so hard against 10 MPH winds and chop. When I neared the harbor, I broke out into a cold sweat when I didn’t see the put-in, but then came to my senses and finally anchored on dry land. Our Goddess is good, because when I arrived, exhausted yet elated, I met up with an old kayaking buddy from the Khrushchev regime. He is now assisting another kayak tour guide, and gave me information about the Long Island Paddlers, to which he now belongs. I was ever so grateful that T, being the gentleman he has always been, assisted with carrying Sheshebens back to her cradle on the car roof with the Thule Hullavator.
What a day. What an adventure. What a strong cocktail I made when I arrived home.
I used to wonder how Grandma could predict a change in the barometric pressure when she complained of the pain and swelling of her bunions. Guess who inherited this remarkable talent? You betcha. When I put my feet together, the space between the big toes form a “V.” Oh, the quirky surprises of aging.
Post-retirement, I’ll have to find an address where I can wear flip-flops year round, and sell grass-woven hats to tourists on the beach. In the meantime, I’ll just stuff my tired, flat-footed puppies into the latest style of torture devices made especially for women: shoes (amongst other things). What was once fun, has now become a real drag; shopping for dress shoes for an upcoming wedding.
Apparently, I’m not the first woman to experience Big Foot syndrome. In the original Cinderella fairy tale Aschenputtel, by the Brothers Grimm, Ashy’s evil stepmother advised the eldest daughter to cut off her big toes in order to fit her tootsies into the golden slipper. As if that wasn’t enough of a sacrifice of the flesh, the evil bridesmaids had their eyes pecked out by the doves of peace (??) at Aschenputtel’s wedding to the Prince. And that was after throwing bird seed to the feathered fiends! Poetic justice, I suppose. Same deal with the Wicked Witch Of the West. Didn’t she have her beady eyes set on those desirable ruby slippers? Evil never scores; well, at least in the shoe department.
Most of my shoes for the workday world are flats that have the extra bonus of stretch-flex added to the toe box. When researching “shoes for bunions,” keywords such as comfortable and padded and soft popped up in every hit. (Just the way a woman should be, non?) But you know damn well that Jimmy, Manolo and Miu Miu aren’t tossin’ and turnin’ in their Duxianas at night, dreaming up gotta have styles when it comes to those of us who want to keep our big toes attached to our metatarsals.
Digging through the sales racks, it appeared that all of the “cute” shoes were in the low single-digit sizes. The castoffs in my shoe size were scant in selection, and looked like dowdy wallflowers at a Sadie Hawkins dance. My current body structure no longer allows me to wear a heel higher than two inches. Even platforms or wedges don’t provide the security I need to feel when walking at high altitudes. Right before I left for the event, I tried on the high-heeled sandals I had purchased (on sale!) just to check my gait. My body pitched forward, and I felt that all too familiar stab-in-the-back-that-takes-your-breath-away pain. My Achilles tendon also reminded me that heels are strictly verboten. From the depths of my closet, a pair of comfortable, padded, soft Anne Klein low-heeled sandals came to the rescue, and finished the ensemble without skipping a beat; albeit the unanticipated hitch in my git-along. Thankfully, I was able to exchange the pain-inducing sandals for ones that were more on the level of a glitzy slip-on. Like the glass slipper, minus the charming royal shoe peddler.
Purchasing shoes that actually fit and feel comfortable come at a high cost. Once I find a shoe that fits, I buy it. Yes, I may be floundering in the landfill of debt as a result, but, to paraphrase a T-man classic: nothing is right, if your shoes are too tight. Think of the price of shoes as an investment in your physical and emotional health. When necessary, ‘DreaDragonfly calls to mind how retail therapy is cheaper than seeing a shrink, soothing to the soul, and oh, so smile-producing.
Case in point: the shoes below this paragraph were a splurge that was worth every cent. I had been eyeing these rose-colored beauties in the Sundance summer catalog for some time. Guilt was there to scold me for spending lots of hard earned cash on one pair of shoes. My brain rationalized that they are made of fine Italian suede, and the fit is surprisingly comfortable. I’m not a “red” person, but these were too amazing to pass by. I was delighted that the criss-crossed straps showcased a forever favorite body part; my shapely ankles. And maybe, just maybe if I click my heels together….uh, hopefully I won’t end up in Kansas!
What a great line from an even greater song. I can remember when Elton John’s “Friends” song came out in the early 1970s, and he was playing at a local university for about $4.00 a ticket. Little did I know how priceless that song would become in 2015.
On May 23rd, some long time friends from high school and I gathered in New York City to celebrate one girlfriend’s birthday. The initial impetus for making the trip was to see an array of photos from our hippie-days attendance of concerts at the once-renowned Academy of Music (3rd Avenue & 14th Street). The gallery was located in SoHo, named The Morrison Hotel, the same as the title of one of the early Doors albums. We were a little dismayed when we discovered that the legendary front window was actually located in Los Angeles! We toured the small space, a bit disappointed that the exhibit focused mainly on scenes from the Fillmore East, of musicians we didn’t see. My huffy mood didn’t last for long after I spied and purchased a fab photo journal of the life and times of Led Zeppelin! Rock my world, Jimmy!! The curator of the exhibit told us to return next month, when photos of Jerry Garcia would be on view. We became a little misty-eyed, because our friend who died in February 2015 was a HUGE fan of the Grateful Dead. How he would have loved to have seen past images of Master Garcia, doing what he did best.
We then ventured over to Little Italy. In all the years I have lived in NY, I’ve never been to the “official” neighborhood. We perused the restaurants up and down Mulberry Street and settled on one that had outdoor sidewalk seating. The day was sunny and in the low 80s.Calories be damned , we chose a family-style lunch of mozzarella, tomatoes and basil drizzled with olive oil; antipasto, and a variety of pasta dishes all on one platter. With several beers and glasses of wine amongst us, we toasted every memorable moment of the past and present, much to the amusement of the surrounding patrons and passers-by. I sneakily arranged for a small tiramasu to be brought out with a lit candle for the birthday girl after we had finished our three courses. When asked, I didn’t own up to my little surprise.
Cabbed it up to the West Side, Pier 88, where Fleet Week was in full swing. We were able to tour the USS San Antonio, which was docked for public viewing. The gals and I were more intent on inspecting the young Navy sailors and Marines, more so than the fire equipment or amphibious vehicles. We had fun seeing who could be the sexiest cougar! (Hey, we vintage babes have to have our kicks every now and then!!) I think I won the prize when I volunteered to be strapped into a rescue brace and hoisted a few feet off of the ground. Whenever we stopped to chat with a few of the crew members, we profusely thanked them for their service to our country is what Memorial Day is all about.
Back at the infamous clock at Grand Central Station, we traded our hugs and kisses. My city-playmates boarded their train to Connecticut, and I headed back to Penn Station to wait for my “Change at Jamaica” train to ramble on down the tracks to my sleepy seaside town.
I wonder if passengers on the train were silently questioning my sanity level, because I was grinning the whole ride home. Thinking about the wonderful day that had taken place, and the friends who have been there with me and for me since the early 70s had me humming the song, “Friends” quietly to myself. A day like this was such a relief from the stress that has overstayed its visit, and the hearty city walks we took (5000 steps!) were more than sufficient to burn off all of the Parmesan-laden foods and Peroni beers. Just a trip into the greatest city in the world is cause enough for celebration, but with some good friends along for the ride of life, is solid gold.
“It seems to me a crime that we should age
These fragile times should never slip us by
A time you never can or shall erase
As friends together watch their childhood fly“
We begin this way and end this way. A great big hug to my dear friend dreadragonfly for this beautiful tribute to a wonderful friend, T-man.
“Do you want to see it?” she asked. My inner voice screamed HELL YEAH, but I politely said “Yes!”
No, I wasn’t freaked out. Not much scares my Scorpio self anymore.
She placed a large plastic bag on the table, and removed the FEDEX box.
FEDEX? A person’s remains are entrusted to FEDEX??
No, just the urn, the empty urn. It goes to the funeral director who then fills it’s precious contents.
Out came the black velvet bag and engraved vessel. A beautiful blue to match his eyes, swirled with white, like a bright blue sky with whispy clouds. Nice choice.
“Feel it, it’s much heavier than I expected,” the widow explained.
Indeed. We thought he’d be lighter. The urn was smooth and quite cool to the touch. And beautifully engraved with his name, dates of existence, and lovely saying, and two interlocking hearts.
“Until we meet again.” Indeed.
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