In this video I shot today, you can see why it’s a real challenge to do any kind of creative work at all around here of late…
My Screaming Sicilian frozen pizza came with a pop-out mustache.
I am the Great Linguini!
For decades I’ve been plagued by the fear that when I’m gone, all the family stories that I know will be lost – all the little narratives that illuminate who people were and, more important, how they were.
I’ve ended up with all the material effects from five families, including my own, as I inherited the possessions of my mom and step dad, grandmother and grandfather, great aunt and uncle on my grandmother’s side, and great aunt and uncle on my grandmother’s side. These fill two to three dozen moving boxes, each with hundreds of papers, photos, collectables, souvenirs, mementos, awards, and memorabilia, and almost every one has a story behind it.
Here in my sixty ninth year, I have finally become so worried that these wonderful tales describing not just dates and places, but the nature of those who came before me, both those I’ve known and others even before that whom I have heard about from those that knew them, will cease to be. In a sense, I feel as if all these beloved and unique people will then cease to be as well, far more so then when they gave up the ghost.
And so, to assuage this nagging sadness, I have recently taken it upon myself to preserve those narratives – all the family stories I know from experience or had related to me.
To this end, I have begun opening each of the boxes, one by one, under the eye of a video camera pointed down into the memory treasures. In short sessions I pick up the first item, and share what I know about it and the people to whom it was connected, describing not only the object, but weaving in special memories I have of the people I have loved and lost, and even wonderful moments from those still with me when an item touches upon them as well.
I had tried before to put these stories in words, taking pictures of each material thing and speaking about it in essays and even collecting these in books. But who wants to read such material in a technological world such as this. And, it also lacks the immediacy of discovery, part way through my monologue, of some previously lost memory that puts passion in my voice as I rotate the object for the camera and reminisce.
I have done one session already, and I feel so relieved – that is the only appropriate word – that everything I shared on the video is now part of our family history, and those particular stories shall not be lost to time. I am eager to continue, knowing that each session brings those people alive again, as I knew them or heard about them, as if they were fictional characters that live on screen in a movie, for that is where the passion can be felt, and even those who never knew them nor even previously had heard of them can be enriched by their smiles, moved by their tears, thrilled by their triumphs, and saddened by their tragedies. But most of all, these magnificent spirits will live on in the hearts of those who live today, and of those not yet born who can say, “these are the people through whom I myself have come to be.”
Here’s a shot our friend, Alan, took in 2001 of our most amazing friend, Clairisse, as she was jumping up to catch a crumpled paper ball (see upper right-hand corner. I miss her so much. She was a most amazing soul…
Right after college I had a job at a photofinishing lab on the night shift. My best friend there was a fellow about my age named Pat Louden – he was a history major which was why he worked the night shift at a photo lab. I was a cinema major, which was why I did.
We used to have philosophic conversations in the lunch room at about 2 AM. I once told him I felt like walking up one wall of the room, across the ceiling and down the other side. He looking up and very seriously proclaimed “Don’t trip over the pipe.”
Another time we were speaking of the visions that come in the night and he said, with gravity, “Dreams? I have dreams… (dramatic pause) Sometimes I wake up laughing.
Once, when he was laughing, he accidentally splattered me with saliva, and when I told him he responded, “I should have expectorated that…”When he would walk in I once said, “Ah – the pitter feet of little Pat.
Yes, those are just some of the memories of my nine to five job – nine at night until five in the morning
.Moving on. We’re walking, and we’re walking….From “A Tour of My Mind – The Oily Years”
Going through old cassette tapes I found in a box, I discovered this cuteness.
I grew up in the house I’m living in right now. In those days, back in the 1950s, the exterior walls were a crisp, clean white, and the trim was a deep forest green (or perhaps a tiny bit more yellow than that).
Later, it was all covered up with pink aluminum siding in the 1960s. Even later than that, my son, Keith, took off all the siding single-handedly (HUGE job), and then I paid for some painters to repaint the white walls which were still beneath.
Now, that light blue paint is peeling, so Teresa is chipping it off by hand with a putty knife, my grandfather’s old wire brush, and lastly blasting it with the pressure nozzle on the hose because the original paint has become all chalky – it was probably the original paint from when the house was built in 1941!
As you can see, there’s some history in this endeavor. While removing the blue paint, Teresa discovered that a few small patches of the original green trim were still on the metal vent at the peak of the old garage.
I hadn’t see that color since it was all covered up with the siding. All the pictures I have from that era are in black and white, but even though I left this house when I was seven, the green so impressed me at that age that I’ve always yearned to see it again and match it to my memory.
So, today, I finally made my way up the ladder and took a few pictures of those few remaining patches. Most are scraped away, but one small patch looks like an accidental brush stroke that still has the color almost as vibrant as I recall it.
I offer it to you here – colorizing my memory once again to the point I can vividly recall the green wooden screen door on the back of the house – removed so many years ago. And now, as I write this from my recliner couch in the patio that is attached to the back of the house so that this whole part of the backyard is now enclosed, I can embrace that memory once more of the splendid green door on the bright, new white house with the green trim.
This is sort of a cross between a paperweight and an art object I made when I was ten or eleven. It’s very special to me because it has some of my favorite things from that era and other things contributed by long passed family members whom I dearly loved.
How it came to be…
My mom was my Den Mother in Cub Scouts and she always had projects for us all to do, often involving plaster, such as casting molds of the wolf, bear, and lion heads for each rank. So, she always had plaster around.
Now I don’t recall if this was a scout project of hers or just me using some of the copious plaster powder we always had around. Seems like maybe it was supposed to be a paperweight as that meetings project, but I really don’t remember.
No matter, the important thing is that I was getting a little old for marbles, and embedded my favorite boulder marble right in the center. It is completely transparent, like a little crystal ball. One of my friends once told me it was a peery or a purey or some such when we were playing marbles. Didn’t quite hear what he said and was too embarrassed in those days to ask. Not now, mind you. But also, I just looked it up. turns out the “proper” name for such a marble is a “clearie.” Now, more than half a century later, I finally know! My other favorite marbles are in there too, with the swirls.
Around the outside edge are fake pearls from one of my mom’s old necklaces that we used for projects. Also on the edge are plastic beads that snapped together to make necklaces.
Also carefully mushed into the plaster is a mother-of-pearl button I may have gotten from my aunt or grandmother, both of whom sewed.
There are some raised letters made of brass at about 2 O’clock in the picture. I think they belonged to my grandfather, though I’m not sure. I know they were a part of some kind of monogram kit. they were really cool because they were curved with little bars on the top and bottom to fit in a monogram frame – at least as I remember it.
There’s a piece of clear deep red broken glass – you know how kids find things on the street as they explore the neighborhood – really interesting things that when I see them again today I say to myself, “Wow – that’s really neat,” just like I did when I originally found it so many years ago.
Finishing it off is a circular brass holder for something or other, and the top in the center is sprinkled by multi-colored sand-like gravel for a little verve.
I’ve wanted to share this one for a couple weeks, but wanted to put it away after I documented it and wasn’t sure what to do with it. On the one had, I’d love to have it around where I could see it all the time. I had forgotten about it until I opened up this box, but it holds so many memories I’d really like it around.
But we live in Southern California – land of major earthquakes. Right now, aside from a few of the pearls that fell out, it is flawless – no chip, no scratches, and the bottom is smooth and perfect, just as it was when in made it in 1963/64. I really don’t want anything to damage it.
On the other hand, if I pack it carefully in a box, I’ll likely see it only a few more times before I shuffle off to Buffalo, and that is not acceptable either.
So, I’ve settled on putting it in the secret drawer hidden in the top of my dresser where I keep all my other treasures. The bottom of the drawer is flocked so it doesn’t slide, and I have a few soft things around it just in case.
And there you have it, my very special, near perfect, plaster project from my childhood, and that’s my memento for the day.
Two little books my mom gave to me in 1956 when I was 3 1/2 years old, for our road trip with my grandfather and grandmother back to Chicago (where my mom was born).
Check the inscription in my mom’s handwriting in one of the pictures…
My grandfather used up all his vacation time every year to go back and help his mom – making repairs around the house, doing yardwork, etc.
My great-grandfather had built the house with his own hands, and out of all the brothers and sisters (some of whom came back to visit their mom) only my grandfather helped fix up the place and used his entire vacation to do it until she died in the mid-1960s. That has always inspired me.
This is the only trip we all made together. I have just one memory of the trip out by car – I moment, more like a photograph of me in the back seat playing with a toy telephone truck that had a remote control on a wire attached to a hand-flashlight sized metal cylinder with a forward button and a reverse button.
This was one of the first plastic toys available. Most everything was either die cast or stamped sheet metal in those days. And remote controlled toys in 1956 were virtually unheard of. So, I don’t know who loved me that much to get such a toy, but I do recall playing with it all the way there, though I only have one memory where I actually see it and the back seat.
I only have blurs of memories of the actual time in Chicago, but I know my mom and I flew back to Burbank, with my grandmother I think, and my grandfather drove back when he had finished helping his mom.
I also don’t recall the plane flight itself, though I almost do – there’s something blurry around the edges of my mind – more like half a feelings of waking up briefly, hearing the sound, my mom telling me it’s okay and go back to sleep, but it is so faint, perhaps that just my imagination filling in gaps.
What I do recall with certainty is that my Aunt Toots met us at the airport. In those days, you just walked down the stairs from the propeller plane and people met you at the bottom out on the tarmac.
We took a short trip to my aunt’s rather than to our house, and she made breakfast for us. I know this from a flash of memory at her house, in my mom’s arms, with the smell of bacon in the air and the sizzling in the background. Perhaps we took a red-eye? Don’t know, but in my memory it seems like it was dark at some point in all this.
Anyway, for me, having these books with my mom’s inscription is an amazing thing. I had completely forgotten about them until they turned up in one of the boxes I’m sorting this very morning.
My heart smiles