Sunday, August 30, 2009

Driving My Daisy

I'm teaching my kid how to drive, and it's made me appreciate how much one takes the ability to maneuver a car for granted. Our first few times out were pretty scary, but now he's gotten the hang of it, and is driving with some confidence.  I can sit in the passenger seat and look out the window for scores of seconds without worrying about hitting parked cars, or stopping for pedestrians, or rolling through stop signs.

I learned to drive when I was 12, in the field behind our house in Vermont (see above, trying not to run over my brother), in a 1932 Ford Model A.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Possible Shorts

Volume 10 of Anthony Powell's A Dance to the Music of Time is named for a new character, Books Do Furnish a Room Bagshaw. Bagshaw's odd nickname was explained by two likely stories. The first, that while drunk, Bagshaw had attempted to find a volume at the top of a large, glass paned bookcase, which had subsequently fallen on top of him. Lying prone, Bagshaw muttered "books do furnish a room". The second story had him naked in the book paneled study of a drama critic, approaching the also naked wife of said drama critic. As they embraced Bagshaw, inebriated, stated "books do furnish a room".

Our house was egged last week. We saw the kids, who were eventually caught, running down the street, four teenage boys on a hot summer night. When the cop who responded to our call asked me for a description, I said they were wearing t-shirts and shorts. He had been talking on his shoulder mic, discussing with another cop where they thought they might be headed. At this point he leaned over to his shoulder mic, and said "possible shorts". I'm thinking that might be my new nickname, Possible Shorts Dine.


Chickens, ducks and clay-coated pears at my brother and sister in-laws house in Haydenville, MA. We brought home fresh chicken and duck eggs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gram Parsons #1

You may be sweet and nice
But that won't keep you warm at night
Cause I'm the one who showed you how
To do the things you're doing now
He may feel all your charms
He may hold you in his arms
But I'm the one who let you in
I was right beside you then
I'm your toy, I'm your old boy
But I don't want no one but you to love me
No I wouldn't lie
You know I'm not that kind of guy
Once upon a time you let me feel you deep inside
And nobody knew, and nobody saw
Do you remember the way you cried?

That, of course, is Hot Burrito #1, written and sung by Gram Parsons, born Ingram Cecil Connor III, son of Ingram Cecil "Coon Dog" Connor and Avis Snivley.
I'm a quarter of the way through a biography of Parsons, and his fascinating childhood can only be rivaled by his storied "live fast, die young, leave a beautiful corpse" adulthood.
Coon Dog Connor was a flying ace in World War II, and shot down hundreds of Japanese fighter planes. After the war he met Avis Snivley, beautiful heiress to the largest orange-growing family in Florida. They married, and Coon Dog was brought into the family business. The Snivley's sent Coon Dog and Avis to Waycross, GA, to oversee a crate manufacturing business. The Connors were town royalty, and partied heavily with the country club set. Drinking and wife-swapping were de rigeur, and Coon Dog and Avis were the beautiful couple at the center of this early 50s alcohol-fueled debauchery. Their 2 children were showered with toys and gadgets, and Gram particularly was doted on, a beautiful smart boy with a gift for music. Gram saw Elvis Presley play Waycross when he was 12, touching off a lifelong obsession with the King. Later that year Coon Dog killed himself, some suspect because he was being cuckolded by Avis. After Connors death Avis moved the family back to Winter Haven, FL, to the family home, where she remarried a playboy named Bob Parsons. The Snivleys owned the swamp that became Cypress Gardens, and as they branched out their citrus business, they created concentrated orange juice, a staple of post-war America. The Snivley brand featured a photo of a water-skiing couple, the woman perched on the man's shoulders. For their own amusement, the family made a "Snivley version" with vodka, a pre-mixed screwdriver. The photo was the same on their cans, although the woman in this case was topless.
Gram meanwhile threw himself into the local music scene, and at 14 was already in the 2 big rock bands in town, the Legends and the Rumors. Those bands also included Kent Lavoie, (better know as Lobo, who had a hit record with Me and You and a Dog Named Boo), Jim Stafford (Spiders and Snakes was a hit in 1974), and Bobby Braddock (co-writer of D-I-V-O-R-C-E and He Stopped Loving Her Today). To be continued.

The Military Philosophers

I finished Volume 9 of A Dance to the Music of Time, and wanted to share these two pages....

Monday, August 17, 2009

Whoopee! We're all gonna die.

Country Joe and The Fish. Man these guys sucked. "Country" Joe McDonald took his epithet from a 1940's nickname for Joseph Stalin, while "The Fish" was a reference to Mao Tse-Tung's quote that the true revolutionary "moves through the peasantry like a fish through water". So you can see where their heads were at. Best known for the Fish Cheer, unleashed at Woodstock by half a million stoned teens (and Gail Collins) yelling FUCK for the first time, and I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag.

So why bother writing about them? Well, a few weeks after the original Woodstock festival, on September 22, 1969 to be exact, they played their next concert, at the Royal Albert Hall, in London. That show was your loyal correspondent's first rock concert, most memorable for it's complete lack of anything remotely memorable, save sitting in a box with my dad at the Albert Hall itself, and the audience filled with stoned hippies and mods. Just to put this in perspective, the Albert Hall hosted a few other rock concerts in 1969- Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Cream's Farewell Concert, to name a few. But I went to the Albert Hall and all I got was CJATF.

Friday, August 14, 2009

What you see conditions feelings, not what is.

I read this wonderful passage from Anthony Powell's The Military Philosophers last night before I went to sleep:

I cannot remember whether it was the day we arrived or later that things crystallized. We were bowling along through Normandy and a region of fortified farms. Afterwards, in memory, the apple orchards were all in blossom, like isolated plantations on which snow for some unaccountable reason had fallen, light glinting between the tree trunks. But it was already November. There can have been no blossom. Blossom was a mirage. Autumnal sunshine, thin, hard, penetrating, must have created that scenic illusion, kindling white and silver sparkles in branches and foliage. What you see conditions feelings, not what is. For me, the country was in blossom.

I love reading a vintage paperback. I have a number of these Fontana Modern Novels, with their literal photographic plot interpretations as cover shots. This edition was published in 1971.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Last scene in Notorious

"Alex, will you come in please? I wish to talk to you."

Unfortunately I can't find a photo of Ivan Triesault as Eric, standing at the top of the stairs, waiting for Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains) to come back.
I've read that Hitchcock shot Devlin's (Cary Grant) face in shadow for most of the film, indicating his inner dilemma, his inability to confront his demons, and his inability to admit his true feelings for Alicia (Ingrid Bergman). Only after he tells Alicia that he loves her, as she lies poisoned, does Hitchcock light Devlin's face completely.

Notorious has one of the best examples of what Hitchcock termed the "Macguffin", the storyline that moves the plot forward, that is ultimately inconsequential. In this case the Macguffin is the Nazi's quest for uranium ore, when in reality the film is about a love triangle, or as Hitch put it:

"The story of Notorious is the old conflict between love and duty. Cary Grant's job--and it's a rather ironic situation--is to push Ingrid Bergman into Claude Rains' bed. One can hardly blame him for seeming bitter throughout the story. . ."

I've always found Notorious to be a completely satisfying movie, and one that still astounds after multiple viewings. So many memorable moments: the motorcycle cop scene, the famous elevator dolly shot down to Alicia's hand holding the key during the party, Devlin and Alicia going into the wine cellar, and of course, the final scene.

UPDATE: Thanks to faithful reader Brian Kenny for the pic of Ivan Triesault: "Alex, will you come in please? I wish to talk to you."