LIKE DRY LEAVES

WEEKLY WORDPRESS PHOTO CHALLENGENOSTALGIA | THE DAILY POST


I am not as nostalgic about the past as most people. I had a difficult and often unpleasant growing up and it’s hard to put aside the unhappy child to find happy memories. They get tangled.

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It is in the autumn where whatever good memories exist continue to live. That perpetual autumn I can sometimes smell in the air this time of year. It is probably why I love this season. Fall signals the return to school and what passed for “normal” in my world.

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I was a New Yorker. I’m sure it was cooler there 50 plus years ago than it is today. Especially in the fall.

And, I loved school. I know this was not a popular point of view in the kid world, but I loved it. Home kind of sucked. School was better. Orderly. I had assignments. Things to learn. Teachers didn’t beat students and there were very few moments of sheer terror to cope with. Unlike home. In generating fear, schoolyard bullies were amateurs compared to my father.

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The thing I remember best and most fondly were the sound of the leaves crunching under my squeaky new leather shoes. The shoes always gave me blisters, no matter what salesmen in stores told my mother about the perfect fit. I don’t know why she believed them when they told her the shoes fit, but never believed me when I told her they hurt.

I participate in WordPress' Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2016

BROADWAY MUSICAL MEMORIES by ELLIN CURLEY

When I hear songs from the past, I always remember them in context. I think about where I was when I first heard them or when I most often heard them. “Oldies” from the 60’s bring back images of doing homework in my bedroom with the radio on. Some songs conjure scenes of riding to or from school with friends and singing along with the radio.

I have always loved Broadway musicals and have been going to see them since childhood. Every show is frozen in time in my mind. My first musical was “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin. I was six and my five-year old friend had to be taken out of the theater because she was so terrified by Captain Hook.

I saw “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” as a teenager with my parents, the night before my father had major cancer surgery (he survived and lived for many years).

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My favorite Broadway memory is seeing the show “Baby” when I was pregnant with my second child. The show follows several women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, just had a baby or just found out they can’t have children. I swear to God my daughter kicked for the first time in the middle of the show about pregnancy and babies! She has always loved musicals too, so maybe her connection to them started in utero!

Today, when we listen to our favorite radio channel, The Broadway channel on Sirius Radio, we reminisce about when we saw each show. We often argue about how old she was or what was going on in our lives when we saw this show or that show. She’s usually right.

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One of my all time favorite shows has followed me through the different stages of my life. I first saw Stephen Sondheim’s “Company” when it opened in 1970. I was in college and saw it with my parents. It was revived in 1990 and I saw it again as a young mother with my first husband. Another revival was produced in 2010. This time I was a middle-aged empty-nester and saw it with my second (and current) husband. I hope I’m around for the next 20-year anniversary production.

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Another show, “The Sound Of Music” has spanned the generations for me. I saw the original 1959 production, again starring Mary Martin when I was 10 years old. I became obsessed with the show and the music. I played the album endlessly. I can still sing all the songs. I read everything about the show and the cast and anxiously waited for the 1965 movie, with Julie Andrews as Maria Von Trapp. I became obsessed all over again.

Fast forward to the 1990’s. My daughter was around eight when I first played the movie for her at home. It was magical to see it through a child’s eyes again. She loved it so much we had to watch it over and over on the VCR. She too became obsessed with everything “Sound Of Music.” We even visited the real Von Trapp family resort in Vermont while we were skiing with the family. It is a love we still share. Someday I hope to share the same music with my grandchildren.

So when I listen to the Broadway radio channel, I’m not just listening to good music, or even familiar music. I’m taking a trip down memory lane. I’m reliving the wonderful time I’ve spent in Broadway and off-Broadway theaters over the years.

I don’t go to musical theater as often any more, in part because ticket prices have become so outrageously expensive. But my memories of songs, shows and theatrical experiences are as strong and happy as ever.

IN GLORIOUS BLACK AND WHITE

If you have stopped by on recent Sundays you have seen some movie lists.  My top 20 Coming of Age movies included the 1971 B&W feature, The Last Picture Show.  The top 20 Films All Guys Should See included a half-dozen black and white films, including a couple mentioned below.

Thoughts on colorful movies shot in B&W

by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

If I asked you to list your favorite movies, what would they be?  Star Trek, Jason Bourne, The Secret Life of Pets?  Maybe Batman, Spiderman, X-Men, Iron Man, Captain America or Suicide Squad?  Is it a 3D Surround Sound, computer enhanced spectacular? Or just fast and furious?  Do special effects and color make a movie great? Or might it be a brilliant script and amazing performances?

If you’re under 30, does your list include anything in black-and-white?  If you’re under 20, have you seen a black-and-white movie?

That’s right, black-and-white movies, like black-and-white photographs, have no colors, just shades of gray covering the gray-scale. It may seem to some that black-and-white movies were only made because color was not perfected until later, but that’s not true. Long after color was standard for all kinds of film, some directors chose black-and-white.

Some shot in black-and-white to evoke a feeling of another time and place. Raging Bull, the break-out performance for Robert DeNiro in 1980 was shot in black-and-white to evoke the era of Jake La Motta, the boxer and film’s subject.

Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Academy Award winning Schindler’s List was done in black and white not only to make it feel like a World War II movie, but also to emphasize the darkness of the subject matter. American History X, Broadway Danny Rose, Stardust Memories, The Elephant Man, all were made in black-and-white for effect, for mood, for a certain cinematographic grittiness. If you never heard of any of the aforementioned, in 2012 the Academy Award for Best Picture went to The Artist, filmed in black and white to recall another age.

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Here are my top 5 black and white movies. These are required viewing before you report back next week: Casablanca is definitely number one. I know some will tell you that Citizen Kane is the best movie of all time. I watched it. I liked it. I have no need of seeing it again. I could watch Casablanca over and over.

Set during World War II, it’s the story of an American (Humphrey Bogart) who fell in love with a beauty (Ingrid Bergman) in Paris.  Forced to flee when the Nazis invaded, he is stood up at the train station by the woman he loves as the rain pours down. He winds up running a casino in Casablanca amidst a cast of shady characters … when guess who shows up? The movie includes one of the great movies songs of all time, As Time Goes By. And before you ask, Bogart never said, “Play it again, Sam.”

As a child, Psycho scared the heck out of me in the theater. It was one of many Alfred Hitchcock classics filmed in black-and-white. Anthony Perkins gave a deliciously creepy performance as the proprietor of the Bates Motel. If you have seen any other version of this classic, you wasted your time. See the original! Perkins reprises the role a number of times in sequels after he was typecast as a weirdo psychopath. Too bad; he was a solid actor.

When the Music Box Theater in Chicago was restored and started showing vintage movies, I took my mother to see Sunset Boulevard. We had both seen it on our wonderful 19-inch, black-and-white television. This was a chance to see a restored print in a restored theater. Writer William Holden is found dead, floating in a swimming pool. The story plays out mostly in flashback.

Silent film star Gloria Swanson, appropriately plays a former silent film star and manages to chew up the scenery in a fabulous performance. A list of Hollywood notables make cameos, including H.B. Warner in the Paramount film, song writers Ray Evans and Jay Livingston (who wrote music for the movie), and Cecil B. DeMille. As Norma Desmond would famously say, “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”

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High Noon is everything a western should be. The town marshal is going to resign — on his wedding day — when bad news arrives. A dangerous outlaw is coming to town, and the new marshal has not yet arrived. The old marshal appears to be no match for the younger guy he had earlier put in jail. Gary Cooper distinguished himself as the sheriff willing to face down the bad guy even if it costs him his life. An A-List of Hollywood stars passed up the chance to make this movie for which Cooper won the Academy Award.

The movie genre that used black-and-white, light and shadows for maximum effect was (is) the detective story. The shine of a street light through a window that throws a shadow on the floor which contains the lines of the window frame and perhaps the detective’s name help to create the scene. Black-and-white emphasizes composition, shadow and light, contrast and mood in ways color can’t.

Top movie of this type is The Maltese Falcon with Humphrey Bogart chasing his partner’s killer and the elusive Maltese Falcon. It costars Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet, both of whom will turn up a year later with Bogart in Casablanca. The ending has one of the dumbest movie speeches, but paradoxically, one of the great closing lines. Altogether, it’s a great movie.

 

Related:
Coming of Age
Films All Guys Should See

LOEW’S VALENCIA – A PALACE OF STARS

Growing up, my favorite theater was the Valencia in Jamaica. No mere movie theater, it was an experience, a Hollywood production its own right. Here with my brother Matthew, I first experienced the glorious, magical world of movies.

It wasn’t my first trip to the movies, but it was my first trip to a real movie palace.

English: Looking northwest across Jamaica Aven...

Looking northwest across Jamaica Avenue at Loews Valencia.

That first excursion to the Valencia was on a rainy Saturday afternoon. With not much else  to do, off we went to see Shane with Alan Ladd. It had just opened at the Valencia. It was 1953. I was five, going on six. When I had to go to the bathroom, I became so enchanted by the theater, I got lost. The ceiling of the Valencia was called “atmospheric,” a dark distant sky full of realistic twinkling stars.

Not to mention the fountains and strange Rococo architecture the likes of which I doubt were ever seen in a “real” building and certainly never by me, even in my imagination. I couldn’t pull my eyes away and eventually forgot where we were seated in that vast building.

An usher with a flashlight had to help me find my family.

I wouldn’t meet Garry until ten years later when we were at college, but we probably crossed paths in that darkened theater. We were fated to meet.

Today, as a Pentecostal Church.

The Valencia was in downtown Jamaica, Queens, about 3 or 4 miles from my house. It opened in 1929 and was the first of the five Loew’s ‘Wonder’ Theaters. Others would be in various parts New York, including Astoria, Queens, the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. My sister-in-law graduated in the Loew’s Paradise in the Bronx, twin theater to the Valencia.

English: 3-Manual, 8-Rank, Robert-Morton Organ.

The Valencia’s 3-Manual, 8-Rank, Robert-Morton Organ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The decorations are described variously as a mix of Spanish Colonial and pre-Columbian, but that doesn’t do it justice. It was fantasy land, and it was entirely unlike anything in reality. Certainly unlike anything in my reality. The theater was enormous, with seating for 3,554, including a vast orchestra section and several balconies.

Architect John Eberson supposedly based his design on Spanish architecture motifs, using wrought iron railings, ornate tile work, sculpture and murals. I suspect a drug induced hallucinogenic state, but perhaps he just had an amazing imagination.

Its extraordinary combination of brick and glazed terra-cotta outside was purportedly inspired by Spanish and Mexican architecture of the Baroque or “Churrigueresque” period, though I have my doubts about that. Details included elaborate terra-cotta pilasters, cherubs, half-shells, volutes, floral swags, curvilinear gables and decorative finials … and of course within, lay that astonishing “atmospheric ceiling” full of stars.

In 1935, the Valencia began to show double features. By the 1950s, it had become my family’s the “go to” movie theater for a special Saturday afternoon. This continued right through the 1960’s.

The Loew’s Valencia was the most successful movie theatre in Queens. Its location in downtown Jamaica, which was then the primary shopping area in the borough and for Long Island before shopping malls changed all that, combined with the theater’s ability (part of the MGM system) to show new movies a week before any other theater in the borough, made it wildly popular.

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The Valencia (Photo credit: ho visto nina volare)

As for me, I’d have happily gone there even if no movie were showing. The theater was a star all by itself. Just those twinkling stars held me transfixed, hypnotized. I would stand staring up at it until someone asked me if I was alright. I was alright, but I was lost. Lost in those twinkling stars.

The Valencia ended its life as a movie theater in May 1977. Since then, it has been the Tabernacle of Prayer for All People church.

At least it was spared the fate of so many other movie palaces. It was not leveled to make way for yet another cookie-cutter cinemaplex. That’s something. And in a way, it’s appropriate. It was always rather like a cathedral.

SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK (EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE)

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SIDEWALKS OF NEW YORK (and a little history)

East Side, West Side, all around the town
The kids sang “ring around rosie”, “London Bridge is falling down”
Boys and girls together, me and Mamie O’Rourke
We tripped the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York

East Side, West Side, all around the town
Sweet Mamie grew up and bough herself a sweet little Alice-blue gown
All the fellas dug her, you should have heard them squark
When I escorted Mamie round the sidewalks of New York

East Side, West Side, riding through the parks
We started swinging at Jilly’s then we split to P.J. Clark’s
On to Chuck’s Composite, then a drink at The Stork
We won’t get home until morning ’cause we’re going to take a walk
On the sidewalks of New York

Courtesy of YouTube

“The Sidewalks of New York” is a popular song about life in New York City during the 1890’s. It was created by lyricist James W. Blake (23 September 1862–24 May 1935) and vaudeville actor and composer Charles B. Lawlor in 1894. The song proved successful afterwards, and is often considered a theme for New York City.

Many artists, including Mel Tormé, Duke Ellington, Larry Groce and The Grateful Dead, have performed this song. Governor Al Smith of New York used it as a theme song for his failed presidential campaign in 1928. The song is also known under the title “East Side, West Side” from the first words of the chorus.

Boston at night

Boston at night

SIDEWALKS | DAILY POST

(Note: The responses aren’t posting today for the “sidewalk” prompt. It’s another “no go” on The Daily Post. Sorry!)

SEPTEMBER SONG – GARRY ARMSTRONG

The calendar page has changed. Again. Just a few pages remain on this year. A few brief weeks of tee-shirt, shorts, and boat shoe weather. Walter Houston is singing in my head. Raspy and bittersweet.

It’s the beginning of baseball’s stretch drive. Our Boston Red Sox are in the mix for the post season. It’s high anxiety time if you’re a die-hard fan. Will the hitters cool off? Will the starters maintain their newly discovered success? Will the bull pen purge those relievers who are serial arsonists?

Pro football is also back. If you belong to Patriots’ Nation, you have to deal with Tom Brady’s four-week suspension. The stiff penalty handed down by the fascist NFL Commissioner who is probably a staunch supporter of Orange Head’s political campaign.

Free Brady! Brady! Brady! Brady, Almighty!

Facebook is full of posts and pictures from parents crying as they send their kids off to school for the first time. There are no posts for drop-outs.

We offer requiems for our fading summer flowers. It’s difficult to watch them as they slowly die.

The late night talk shows are packed with “stars” promoting their new series which sound like old series. I particularly object to reboots of old shows that weren’t particularly good back in their first run.

Autumn september road to home

We’re glutted with new movies, reportedly more serious than the summer blockbusters which for the most part, bombed. How in the wide, wide world of sports could you top lucky Chucky Heston’s “Ben Hur”? And no, I won’t spend money on the reboot of “The Magnificent Seven.” It wouldn’t even pay for my bullets. The old man was right.

Political analysts are dizzy, trying to explain Orange Head’s bizarre and unprecedented campaign for the White House.

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Labor Day weekend offers a brief time out for memories about summers past when we were younger and our world a bit more innocent. Think “Moon Glow” and “The Theme from Picnic”.  I’m William Holden dancing with Kim Novak. Snapshot memories of faded love affairs.

It’s a brief respite.

Walter Houston is now singing louder in my head — even more bittersweet — about those once lazy days dwindling down to hurricanes, raging fires, floods, mass shootings and Orange Head tirades blurring our collective sanity.

September Song.

These precious days I’ll spend with you…….

STURBRIDGE WITH COUSINS

72-Garry and Marilyn in SturbridgeWe don’t get to see each other often. We’ve always lived several hundred miles apart, even when we were kids … but the distance didn’t matter as much back then. We were young, we had energy. We didn’t mind flying or driving.

Flying was a lot easier before terrorism became the biggest thing in the world. The roads were in better shape and there was a lot less traffic, so driving was easier. Gasoline was cheap before anyone noticed oil reserves wouldn’t last forever.

In the life of a family, ones cousins are often the people we know the longest and best throughout our lives. If you are lucky, and have cousins your own age whose company you enjoy, you get the  magical experience of remembering things together that possibly only the two of you remember.

72-roberta-closeup-sturbridge-070816_016At this point, my cousin and I are probably the only two people alive who remember playing with little iron toys that were kept in a special closet in Aunt Ethel’s apartment. Which was downstairs in that brownstone on East 96th Street in Brooklyn.

Four apartments, two up, two down. A flight of stairs in the middle. A hallway. Three siblings shared the building, plus a neighbor who had lived in that building with them … forever … or however many years that represented.

My mother’s two older sisters, lived on the second floor with their husbands. Until they grew up and moved away, other cousins lived up and downstairs too.

We remember together. Funny stuff, like how we were going to go into the desert to dig up artifacts. We remember this as we seek the shade on a summer day in Sturbridge.

We are married. We have children. I have a grandchild. We talk about who’s doing what. And retirement. And are glad that we still know one another and we can remember.