SALAD DAYS, SALAD BARS

Salad Days — Is there a period in your own personal life that you think of as the good old days? Tell us a story about those innocent and/or exciting times (or lack thereof).

Note: If WordPress is going to keep repeating the same prompts and themes, I’m going to rework my material. Good for the goose, good for the gander. Or something like that.


All our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out brief candle. Life’s but a poor player who frets and struts his hour about the stage and then is heard no more.

It is a tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

William Shakespeare, “King Lear”

And here we fools are  … again … reliving for WordPress some aspect of the past. Taking another dive into the treacly waters of remembrance of times past. The wonderful days when life was simple, warm, and fuzzy.

Those halcyon days of yore, before women and minorities got strange idea about rights and dignity. Before inferior people thought they were as good as white men.

Yesterday, when it was okay to beat up your kids, your wife, your pets. You knew your neighbors wouldn’t say anything because no one wanted to interfere in a “family matter.” The good old days of back room abortions with wire hangers, nuns with rulers, fathers with straps. The days when bullies could be kings of the world and the rest of us had to cringe our way through school hoping to get out alive.

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When husbands could rape their wives and it was okay because a marriage licence conferred immunity to prosecution for everything short of murder … and even murder in some states.

The good old days, when you could refuse employment to people because they were the wrong sex or color. When jobs were listed by sex in the press and if you had the wrong plumbing, you couldn’t get an interview.

Those were great times, were they not?

I’m exhausted by all these trips down memory’s lanes. The good old days had some good stuff in them. The world was smaller. We had fewer predators or were blissfully unaware of the ones lurking around every corner. We played outside in good weather, without supervision. Our world wasn’t ruled by technology, or at least not personal devices. No cells phones or beepers to leash us to home. Out of sight meant freedom.

Mom was boss. Watch out for her dish towel! It could get you in any room in the house because mom could not only hear your whispers, but your thoughts, too.

Salad days? Not really. I had healthier days, younger days. 1969, the year my son was born was a good one. Because my son was born, men walked on the moon, everyone went to Woodstock (except me because I was home with the baby) and rock and roll was king.

But not salad days. Just younger.

The Yarn Shoppe in Williamsburg, August 2012.

There’s a lot wrong with today, but there was just as much wrong”back then.” We may not have noticed it, but it was there if you had eyes to see and ears to hear. So lets put our efforts into making today better.

We can’t redo the past and I don’t want to live there or even visit. We have today. We have “now.” Let’s do the best we can to make today worth remembering … even if we aren’t the ones who will remember it.

JUST SHOW UP IN A TUX

We just celebrated our 24th  wedding anniversary. As I ponder the upcoming 25th, I hear distant bells. I remember the wedding. The thrill of ultimate victory, the agony of getting there. How, by the time I got to the altar, I was a nervous wreck, but Garry was cool as the proverbial cucumber and looked dashing in his tuxedo.

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Photo by Bette Stevens

After it was clearly established that we were definitely, unquestionably, without any doubt, getting married, it came down to details. Dates. Rings. Caterers. Bakers. Flowers. Music. Photography. Videography. And (trumpets) a ceremony.

I had been married twice before — okay, three times, because I’d been married in a registry office in London, then the whole Jewish medieval ceremony in Jerusalem. Having been there and done that. I wanted to elope or maximum, go to city hall, have the mayor marry us. He would have. We knew the guy. We could have been married at City Hall, I’d toss a bouquet, someone would throw some confetti, and voilà. Married. After that, us and our actual friends could all go out for Chinese.

Garry wanted a Real Wedding.

He was 48 years old. Never married. This would be his one and only wedding and by golly, he was going to Do It Right.

“I want a real wedding. In the church in which I grew up. In New York,” says Garry. “And I want my old pastor to officiate.”

“Pastor G. is retired … like fifteen years ago.”

“I’m sure we can work it out.” When he said we, I thought he meant he and I would do this thing together. Because where I come from, that’s what we means. I was deluded.

“Why can’t we just have something here in Boston? New York is 250 miles away. You haven’t lived there in nearly 30 years. Everyone you know except your parents are up here or in another part of the country entirely.”

Garry’s face is set. Stony. He wants a hometown wedding in the church he attended as a child. With the minister he had when he was a kid. Did I mention my husband is stubborn? He is very stubborn.

“This is going to be a lot of work. It’s hard to plan a wedding long distance,” I point out. “And I have a job too, in case you’ve forgotten.” Garry is unfazed.

“We can,” he repeats, “Work it out.” There was that we again.

“Fine,” I eventually agree. “We’ll have a wedding. In New York. At your church.”

There were caterers to hire. Music to be arranged. A bagpiper (don’t ask). Battles over the guest list. A cake to be designed. The cake was my favorite part. It went like this. Having settled on a vanilla cake with lemon filling, we needed to decide on decorations.

“Do you want the bride and groom in white or black?”

“Can we have one of each?” No, we could not. In 1990, they do not have a mixed couple cake topper. I offer to take a marker and paint the groom black, but inexplicably, Garry finds this objectionable. I suggest they take two sets and cut them in half, but it is deemed too complicated. In the end, I opt for wedding bells, the DMZ of wedding cake toppers.

So, Garry got his wedding. It was (for him) as simple as simple could be. Marilyn arranged the wedding. Garry showed up in a tux.

You see? We worked it out.

WINNING

SWEEPING MOTIONS: My desk and bedroom are fine. Even our car is tidy. I’m sure I have a messy closet somewhere. It’s my brain which could use a thorough tidying. Here’s a great memory moment from the clutter of my brain. One of my favorites.


In the mid 1980s in Israel, I worked at the Weizmann Institute in Rehovot with the team developing DB1, the first relational database. Those familiar with databases and their history should go “Ooh, aah.” Feel free to be awed. These are my bona fides certifying my “original geekhood.”

I was never a developer, just a computer-savvy writer, but I worked extensively on Quix, the first real-English query language and documented DB-1. I was eventually put in charge of creating promotional materials to sell the project to IBM. They bought it and from it, DB2 and all other relational databases emerged. Cool beans, right?

Technical writing was new. In 1983, it didn’t have a name. I was a pioneer. I didn’t chop down forests or slaughter aboriginal inhabitants, but I went where no one had gone before. Breaking new ground was exciting and risky.

The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” Micah knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout. His money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. The definition of clout.

As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the failed newspaper I’d managed the previous year. (This was well before computers could generate graphics properly.) Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.

The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over that text and she had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. And so it came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.

Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two. At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered.

Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.

“That’s my work, ” I said.

“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”

He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem. I’d worked for Moshe, quitting because although I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I had a bad-tempered, jealous husband — something I didn’t feel obliged to reveal.

Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.

“Oh,” said Micah. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were elegant examples of people trying desperately to not laugh. Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.

It was a moment of triumph so sweet — so rare — nothing else in my working life came close. I won one for The Team, for professional women everywhere. Eat it, Micah.

IF ONLY I HAD AN EXTRA HOUR

Twenty-Five Seven

Good news — another hour has just been added to every 24-hour day (don’t ask us how. We have powers). How do you use those extra sixty minutes?

Twilight over the hills, Peacham, Vermont

Sunrise over the hills, Peacham, Vermont

If there were another hour in the day, it wouldn’t be enough. If there were another 5 or 6 hours in the day, it still wouldn’t be enough. Because sooner or later, you have to stop what you are doing and rest. Take a break. Stop moving, stop talking, stop the world. It’s time to get off.

Morning again and the mist

Morning again and the mist

The last couple of days have been continuous great conversation, fabulous food. Magical panoramas of a countryside so beautiful it seems like a dream. It’s been amazing. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Not enough hours to eat, talk, tour, take pictures, process pictures, write, answer comments. Socialize. Remember. Not even close.

I find myself having to face my own limits … I cannot do a single thing more and maintain any kind of balance. Yesterday, I realized I was not going to answer all the lovely comments and I was certainly not going to get to reading — or even skimming all the blogs I normally follow. I had been saving them, hoping that “later” I would get to them, but later, we were talking, remembering, laughing. Discovering we’d read the same book, shared many interests we’d never imagined.

Morning light on trees and fields

Morning light on trees and fields

Of course we know many of the same people. We knew that. We all went to the same college and worked at the same college radio station … that’s where so much of our lives because.

Our host was one of the early arrivals along with my first husband and a few others. They were the guys who turned it into a place where magic happened, where we invented ourselves, invented many things that are now part of media history. There had to be a first time for everything, but it is weird to realize that you were there — as an observer and sometimes, as a participant — in the creation of things that are now so basic to the broadcast industry that they seem to have existed forever.

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Yet they had a beginning. WVHC at Hofstra University was an incubator, a rich supportive environment for a bunch of creative kids who had ideas. New ideas. Because it was a different time, freer, with looser structure at the school — before so many rules and limitations were put in place — we had a chance to create new ways to do stuff.

Quiet country roads

Quiet country roads

And here we are, remembering, savoring people we know, the parts we played. Recognizing that things we and our friends did — invented — have made a difference. Truly changed the world and our industry. We really did it.

And all of this in beautiful Vermont where the leaves are golden and the last corn awaits harvesting. It is magic time.

COVERING R&B MUSIC

Black artists and white singers, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

At the dawn of Rock and Roll in the 1950’s and even into the early 1960’s, it was not uncommon for white singers to cover African-American singers.  Black artists did not get radio play on white radio stations.  That shut them out of a lot of markets and kept much of America from hearing their songs.  This opened the door wide for white singers to record songs heard only on black R&B stations, leaving the impression in many areas that they were the original artists.

The Memphis area, Tennessee label, DOT, founded in 1950, became big by hiring white singers to cover black songs.  Indeed they made stars out of some of these singers.  Among the biggest was Pat Boone.  The crooner recorded Fats Domino’s 1955 song “Ain’t That a Shame,” which became a big hit.  It had been suggested that Boone change the lyric to “Isn’t That A Shame,” perhaps to sound more “white.”  Fortunately they resisted that bad idea.  Boone followed with a number of covers that made him a household name.  His next success was the Little Richard song, “Tutti Fruitti,” which Boone did not want to record.  To Boone “it didn’t make sense” but he was talked into it and it went to number 12.   A song that went all the way to the top was “I Almost Lost My Mind,” originally by Ivory Joe Hunter.  Nat King Cole even covered the song, but Boone had the hit.  The main reason was Boone got a lot of radio play.  The others did not.

DOT also made a star of Gale Storm when she covered the Smiley Lewis R&B hit, “I Hear You Knockin.”  She also recorded “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?”  Snooky Lanson and The Fontane Sisters also benefited from the era of covering other artists.  Eventually DOT cashed in off admitting to the practice with an album of 30 of these songs.  “Cover to Cover,” includes 7 recordings by Pat Boone alone.  It also includes a mediocre version of Chuck Berry’s Rock Classic, “Maybelline,” by Jim Lowe.

The white versions were generally slower and toned down in comparison to the R&B versions.  They were playing to a different audience so they produced versions they thought would be more appealing to that audience.  It was a sign of the racially segregated times and something that would not happen now.  Of course there are still many covers, but for various other reasons.

When Elvis Presley hit the scene, he also brought with him cover versions of other songs.  His 1956 hit “Hound Dog,” was originally by Big Mama Thornton, but Elvis may have been influenced by the 1953 novelty version by Jack Granger and his Granger County Gang, aka Homer and Jethro.  The 1954 hit, “That’s All Right,” belonged to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and was originally called “That’s All Right, Mama.”

One of the consequences of all these cover songs was they helped pave the way toward acceptance of this genre of music and eventually of some of the black artists who originated the songs.   Little Richard is said to have claimed that while teenagers and young music lovers may have had Pat Boone on top of their dressers, but they had “me in the drawer ’cause they liked my version better.” 

By the late 1950’s, with the segregation of music dying out, the Doo-Wop group Little Anthony and the Imperials came along and started to hit the big time.  While many of their early songs found great success for other artists, they found wider radio and television play than earlier Black R&B stars.

For a look at the Linda Ronstadt version of this song, see this past article.

THE FAMILY AS WE MEET

Delayed Contact – How would you get along with your sibling(s), parent(s), or any other person you’ve known for a long time — if you only met them for the first time today?


How would I get along with them today? If I had just met them?

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Probably not well. Mom might be an interesting person to talk to about her experiences in the thirties and forties. Her cynical take on politics and the way the world was going. Her disdain for government and the people who run it. Her dislike of “the old boys network” and the “old boys” in it were eternally amusing. She had a sardonic way of expressing herself that I think I have inherited. I miss her. She always had a unique “take” on whatever was going on.

I loved my brother though we had little in common but DNA. Our interests were so different. Our ways of dealing with the world almost diametrically out of phase. We shared a common understanding of how hard it had been to grow up in our world and come out unbroken.

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It’s a bit of a moot point whether or not we were unbroken, but we hid the damage well and managed to have productive lives. We were deeply supportive of each another. Yet I wonder. If we hadn’t been born to the same parents, would we have ever sought each other out? If Matt had lived longer — and so wish he had — we might have discovered more common ground as we matured. I wish we’d had the chance.

My sister was the odd child. Socially awkward and very much her mama’s darling, I think she watched me — especially me –with much envy and resentment, never understanding what it had cost me to break free of the family so young (I was barely 16) and go it on my own. I know she found me a hard act to follow … but she found life a hard act. By her mid 30s, she had retreated not only from the family, but from the world. She was a modern-age hermit and as far as I know, still is. Drug-addicted and lost, somewhere. She does not leave a forwarding address.

I’m always a bit envious of close-knit families, though I wonder what is hidden in there, what lies beneath the cheery surface. Maybe everything is just as you see it. Maybe not. It’s a bit late for me to find out because so much of my family has passed.

Maybe next time around the wheel.

NO GOALS? NOT MUCH CHANGE … SHARING, WEEK 35

Share Your World – 2014 Week 35

Have your blogging goals changed?

I never had any blogging goals except to post pictures and write stuff and hope some people outside immediate friends and family might see it. It’s easy to meet or exceed ones goals if you don’t have any. Goals.

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I didn’t expect I would enjoy blogging as much as I do. Nor did I expect my writing and photography to be so well received. That has been a very pleasant surprise. The writing I did professionally wasn’t the sort that wins awards, gets applause, or attention. It was “bread and butter” writing. Honorable work. It didn’t save the world, but it didn’t harm it, either. And it paid well. Best of all, I got to meet great people, some of whom are still friends after many years.

community-9-1-14But blogging — it’s the first time I’ve written for myself and have an audience. A responsive audience. An encouraging, often flattering audience. People say the nicest things.

My current blogging goals? I still don’t have any. I plan to continue to do what I have done.  I hope it continues to be as much fun and as satisfying as it has been for the past two and a half years.

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?

No need to think about this one. I want to be a flyer in the trapeze act. I want to cannonball through the air, weightless and free of gravity. But … keep the net in place, okay? Just in case.

If you could go back and talk to yourself at age 18 what advice would you give yourself?  Or if you are younger than 25 what words of wisdom would you like to tell yourself at age 45?

As I am not getting any younger (no one except Dorian Gray gets younger and it’s Dorian’s portrait, not the real him that’s aging backwards), I would tell myself to relax. Stop wasting all that time worrying. Worrying is useless — and ruins the moment. I would NOT marry the second husband — talk about a waste of time and energy. I would always carry a camera and write more just for fun. I guess I should have done better with my money. Okay, I’ll tell myself to start saving money.

What is your favorite comfort snack food?

Unchanged since the last time this came up, it’s crystallized ginger. In many and varied forms.

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Charter finally fixed our bad connection at the pole on the street. After 13 years of malfunctioning, our cable is working the way it is supposed to. Imagine that!

Next week? There is a get-together with old friends in Boston. That should be a nice diversion.