42 – THE STORY OF A LEGEND. THE STORY OF AMERICA – Marilyn & Garry Armstrong

42

We meant to see this one in the theatre, but time slipped away and by the time we were ready to go, it was gone. But that turned out to be fine, because we have a wide-screen television and surround. I bought the movie and we got a private screening. Time for baseball and history. Not only baseball. Not only history.

The integration of sports is taken so much for granted today, younger generations can’t imagine when it was any other way. This is the movie that shows how it happened. It’s a movie about many things.

It’s the story of how and why Jackie Robinson became the first non-white player in Major League Baseball. How this began the integration of all professional sports. It was the beginning of modern baseball as well as the first significant move toward real integration.

That it was our original home town team, the Brooklyn Dodgers makes the story more personal for us. Branch Rickey, owner of the Dodgers, decided it was time to make a difference. Because he could, he changed the world. Harrison Ford as Mr. Rickey mumbles. He’s also real, touching, human. He actually made me cry. Harrison Ford is not known for nuanced performances, but he gives one in this movie.

JrobinsonI commented that Harrison used to be President, not to mention Indiana Jones. Garry pointed out that owning the Dodgers was far more important. I agreed. Because Garry and I agree: there’s nothing more important than baseball. Especially right now.

Chadwick Boseman bears a strong physical resemblance to Jackie Robinson. He doesn’t sound like him, but that’s quibbling. Nicole Beharie is a pretty good likeness of Rachel Isum Robinson. Who, as Garry pointed out, is even today, old as she is, one fine-looking woman. It was no accident Rickey chose a good-looking couple. He knew what they would be up against and it would be hard enough. Any small advantage they could gain by just being attractive … well, they were going to need it.

It’s hard for people brought up after the Civil Rights Amendment to understand the intensity of the hatred, anger and rage bringing a Black man into baseball caused.

It was 1947, the year I was born. The big war in Europe was over and returning Black soldiers were appalled and enraged that the service to their nation had done nothing to alleviate the oppression of Jim Crow laws. Segregation was not merely as bad as it had been. It was worse. Returning Black soldiers made racists all over America nervous that their position of supremacy was being threatened.

It would take 20 years to make get a civil rights amendment to the Constitution. Twenty more to make it real and twenty-five years more to get a non-white President into office. It will probably take another twenty before people stop noticing race … if indeed they ever do. Race and the judgments we make based on skin color are so ingrained, so automatic, so very American.

More than apple pie or the flag, we the people love to hate. It’s the most universal of all human behaviors. Not our ability to love but our willingness to hate.

Chadwick Boseman not only looks like Jackie Robinson. He has his swing. I assume they taught him the swing, but they did it very well and really got that gritty baseball “feel” into the movie. Everyone plays their part with authenticity, as those of us old enough to remember the real guys can attest. Maybe that’s the problem with many of the critics: they never saw the real guys, met them, cheered for them. Lived and died with them through the long season of baseball. They don’t remember, but we do.

The cinematography is great, moving smoothly and naturally between wide and close shots to give you the feeling of the game and more. Nice, tight segues. What is even better captured is the intensity of the abuse Robinson was forced to put up with, to swallow without complaint while simultaneously playing at the top of his game. I’d like to see any modern player survive this.

In many ways, Robinson didn’t survive it. He lived through it, but it killed him from the inside. He blasted open the door of the future and it cost him dearly.

Why did Rickey do it? There was a strong moral component. Rickey believed it was the right thing to do and the right thing to do for baseball. But above all, it was a sound business decision. There was a huge pool of talent out there and the Dodgers needed all the help they could get. By bringing in first Jackie Robinson while simultaneously planning to bring up more Black players, Rickey figured he was going to do some serious winning. He was right.

Leo Derocher
Leo Derocher

Christopher Meloni, ex of Law and Order: SVU, nails Leo Durocher, the crazy, quirky Brooklyn Dodger’s manager. He actually looks like Durocher.

If you love baseball, see it. Even if you don’t love baseball, see it anyway. See it for the history, to remember how hard the battle for equal rights was, is and will continue to be. How much baseball, the American pastime, has always been at the center of the American experience.

And finally see it because it’s the story of a genuine red-blooded American hero. In every sense of the word.

From Garry Armstrong:

I have to admit I was tearing up in places even though there’s no cryin’ in baseball. Critics aside, this was no pleasant Hollywood fable but a fairly authentic account of Jackie Robinson, the man and the player and the times that swirled around him.

Much of this is first-hand recall for me. I was 5 years old and already a budding baseball fan in Brooklyn in 1947 when the young player wearing number 42 became a household name. I remember all the excitement in my neighborhood. Some of it I understood. Some of it I didn’t. The newspapers and radio were full of the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson and how what they were doing would perhaps cause problems all across the country.

I remember angry things shouted by White people we encountered. I recall some very nice comments offered by White people who frequently said Jackie Robinson was “a credit to your people.”

I followed the Dodgers very closely over the years. I knew their lineup by heart, could emulate their swings and could recite from memory details of their personal lives along with the baseball stuff. In later years, I’d have the good fortune to meet many of the Boys of Summer including Peewee, Campy, Big Newk, Ralphie Branca, Gil Hodges, The Duke (My hero) and Jackie Robinson.

Later, as a reporter, they gave me their own first hand accounts of what it was like – that memorable year of 1947. I would also hear from Red Barber, the legendary sportscaster who called almost all of the games during the ’47 season for the Dodgers. One poignant memory involves a conversation with Campy (Roy Campanella) and Jackie Robinson. I was now a young reporter and a familiar face to many of the aging Dodgers. Campy was always “the diplomat”, pleasant and smiling.

Jackie always seemed angry. I thought he was mad at me sometimes until Campy said he was just “Jackie being Jackie”. The conversation was about how young Black people conduct themselves. Jackie thought many were irresponsible. Campy said they were just kids doing what kids do. Jackie glared at Campy and then smiled at me saying. “You get it, don’t you?”. I just nodded.

Sorry I strayed from the movie but it evoked so many, many memories. And, thanks Harrison Ford, for a splendid portrayal of Branch Rickey!

A LITTLE FICTION – THE CALLIOPE

Oom pah, pah … oom pah pah …

The sound of the calliope is a siren’s call to the little girl. There, in the middle of the big park, the magic ponies go up and down. Up, down, around and then around again.

“Can I ride Mommy? Please?”

Mommy nods yes. There’s no harm in a carousel. It’s just wooden horses, traveling in a circle, going nowhere, eternally and forever around the calliope as it pumps out the same songs. A good place to be on a bright summer day, a happy place to bring a five-year-old girl who loves horses. She can dream of real horses while the park spins past, green and sunny.

Years fly. The girl has grown into a young lady. Sixteen, if you please. “I’m not a child!” she cries to the world, but especially to her parents. “I will do as I please.”

What she pleases is to have a boy friend. To be in love, to make love. She has no future plans, not yet. Just the fresh bloom of love which must be eternal. Because in books, love is always eternal, always fresh and smelling of roses.

Today she is meeting her boy friend. They will be meeting by the carousel in the park. She loves the carousel, has loved it since childhood. It’s a magic place for her, a places that holds only happy memories. The calliope is playing the same songs it played when she was so little. So long ago, or so it seems. When she rode the big wooden horse, pretending she was riding a gallant steed, galloping off to protect the world.

Life goes on. The next time she is able to visit the ponies, she is holding her little boy by the hand. “I rode those ponies when I was your age. Listen, the music is still playing. Just like it did when I was your age.”

“Can I ride Mommy?”

“Of course. That’s why I brought you here. To ride.”

And the painted horses go round and round while the park spins through another summertime. This is our forever summer, she thinks, as she watches her little boy riding the merry-go-round.

The next time she comes, she is holding her granddaughter’s hand. They watch the horses. Her little granddaughter is a tiny thing, with a passion for horses. A dreamer. She rides and rides and finally, it’s time to go. Long shadows lie across the sidewalks and the carousel is about to close for the day. As they take their leave, she wonders if she will ever be here again to hear the calliope play?

The next time she comes to the carousel, her son is with her. Middle-aged now and the tiny granddaughter is a sullen sixteen. Three generations by the carousel and remarkably, the calliope still plays.

This special carousel is still alive, magic intact. It’s good to be alive this summer day in Central Park. The music wakes the teenager into the girl she was. There’s something so … eternal … about the dancing ponies.

Grandma remembers the first time. All those times, even when she came alone because it was just a quick subway ride. One token. To see the boy friend. Whatever became of him?

She would never miss a chance to ride, though it’s not as easy getting up into the seat as it used to be.

No more real horses in her life, but today — briefly — she is young. She feels as if she is looking at herself through a fun house mirror. Are these the same wooden horses she rode as a girl?

It was always summertime in the park. I think it still is.

SUMMER MEMORIES

It’s getting cold. It stayed summer through most of October and has been warm even through last weekend, but it’s definitely chilly now. Especially at night. There has been snow in the Berkshires. It’s not here … yet … but it’s a warning. I was cruising through photographs from this year and found the month of July.

We took quite a few pictures during the summer and for some reason, have done very little with them. I went back and processed a few favorites. As winter approaches, maybe what we all need are memories of summertime.

The deep green of the trees and the quiet shine of the river. The reflections of the sky and the trees. Kids and their fishing poles.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The oil truck came yesterday. Soon it will time for heat, but for now, just memories of warmer days.

FAMILY ‘SUMMER CAMP’ – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I did a fun thing with my kids in 1993, when they were eight and thirteen. My ex, Larry, and I took them to a three-day Family Summer Camp on Lake George in New York State. It was just like regular sleep away camp except it was designed for families.

My two kids on the dock at the camp

During the day, everyone signed up for different activities, with or without your other family members. The families came together at mealtimes and for the evening’s entertainment. I did several things with my kids. It was fun doing things I had enjoyed when I was in camp, with my own children. Things like archery and riflery, both of which I, strangely, excelled at.

We also kayaked together and went waterskiing. At least the kids went waterskiing, all around the picturesque lake. I had waterskied in grade school and found it easy. I didn’t anticipate a problem. However, neither Larry or I could even get up on our skis for more than a few seconds. We got three chances and struck out 0 for three. It was embarrassing and made me feel old.

The accommodations were sparse. They took “rustic” to new levels. And I’m not a ‘roughing it’ kind of girl. So this was really a stretch for me. Each family had their own cabin in the woods. Ours had two sets of bunk beds, plain wood floors, a dresser and a table and chairs. There were, maybe two light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. No air conditioning goes without saying (a big deal for me). Also lots of bugs and insects.

Sparse cabin like the one we lived in for the weekend

Then there was the bathrooms. There were two communal bathrooms, one for men and one for women, The problem was, they were at least two city blocks from our cabin. We had to walk through dark and thick woods to get there. There were exposed tree roots and fallen branches everywhere to trip over on the way. Making that trip in the middle of the night with a flashlight and an eight year old was not a picnic. It was downright scary.

One interesting camp rule was that every family had to do kitchen duty for one breakfast, one lunch and one dinner. That meant setting and clearing tables before and after the assigned meals. That was one of my favorite memories from the weekend – sharing KP duty with my kids and a few other families.

My daughter on the camp’s dock

On this trip, I was also introduced to the art of Storytelling. We were regaled one night by a professional Storyteller. We were all mesmerized. She was amazing. She told a wonderful old tale with a theatrical delivery that made you feel like you were watching a full cast enact a play. I’ll never forget that experience.

I don’t think I could have handled more than three days of “camp”. But as a family “adventure,” I give it five stars! Except for the fact that Sarah came home with lice! Maybe it should only get three stars.

SHARING MY WORLD AS SUMMER FADES INTO SEPTEMBER

Share Your World – September 4, 2017


What color do you feel most comfortable wearing?

Black and red. Usually dark red. I also like orange, turquoise, and hot pink. I don’t like pastels or other pale colors. I prefer strong colors.

I look terrible in beige and gray, so I don’t wear them. They make me look beige or gray.

What is your favorite type of dog? (can be anything from a specific breed, a stuffed animal or character in a movie)

I love terriers … but all dogs are fine with me. I don’t like them so tiny they are easily broken or so big that they run me down. Most dogs fit in the middle area anyhow. Now, though, I have only a medium-sized dog door, so nothing bigger than 16-inches at the shoulder!

List at least five favorite flowers or plants.

Roses. Daylilies. Columbine. Daffodil. Astilbe. Which pretty much sums up my garden.

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

My doctor suggested I try Activa and see if it wouldn’t improve my gut. Damn, but it actually has worked. I feel better! Imagine that!

ALONG THE HOUSATONIC IN CONNECTICUT

Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge – July 28, 2017


And so we have returned home. Bonnie and Gibbs did not starve in our absence. We have a functional hot water heater and surprising rise in the water pressure making me wonder how long the boiler was leaking. Our plumber said he had a lot of work cleaning up the mud that had accumulated behind it. It must have been leaking for a long time. Months? Years?

Sunset in the marina

For the past couple of days, we’ve been talking and having a lovely time. I can’t begin say what a pleasure it was to be with friends. We were having a difficult week … and it was only Wednesday. I don’t have a lot of road pictures, but I thought this one, taken yesterday evening just before the light disappeared might work.

I have two 25 mm “normal” lenses. The Olympus is fast at f1.8, but the Leica is faster at f1.4. It is also the only camera that will take a good picture when the light is very low.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

The next one is from Garry. Garry took almost all the pictures this visit … which you will see as the week progresses!

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Boat slips?

 

CHILL AND SIZZLE

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Hot and/or Cold


We are certainly in the perfect place for ongoing discussion of chilling and sizzling. On a normal year — whatever that might be, since we haven’t actually had a normal year in at least a decade — we get both. Brutally cold winters and breathtakingly hot summers.