During my photo search tonight, i also found this poem. It is one i wrote on newspaper paper and an old typewriter. i’m guessing it was somewhere around 1971.
One Moment’s Wish
How i long to return to the sea and the moods that linger in blue
To feel the spray of the ocean wind and the cool night air anew;
How i long to return to the sea with two hundred or so but alone
To feel the emotions that rage on the sea, not to condemn or condone.
It is early, but i am trying to get to bed just a bit sooner than usual. Thirty, even twenty years ago, Friday mornings, or any morning to be truthful, used to be a lot easier. In ten minutes, i would arise, jump out of bed, brush my teeth, grab a bite or not and certainly a cup of coffee on my way to the golf course and our tee time around 7:00 a.m. Now, there are a whole lot of ablutions and other morning necessities which should not be mentioned in polite company of whom i hope we are in required before i take off around 5:30. So tonight, i will set my alarm (on low volume to not disturb my sleeping beauty Maureen more than necessary. It won’t matter because i always wake up for an old man’s business trip about forty-five minutes or a half-hour before the alarm. No matter when i set the alarm. That is just right to keep me from going back to sleep before the alarm goes off. Which is, in some ways good: Maureen will rest better.
So i am scurrying around the office, shunning the college basketball games, and that’s okay because Maureen wanted to watch a chick flick or something anyway after her wonderful dinner…er, supper of white bean chili, her incredible salads that once allowed my father to pronounced he could have been a vegetarian which i doubt very much because that man did love his country ham, steaks, pork chops, fried chicken, bacon, and Tennessee sausage.
Thus, i am trying to get done all of the things i had on my plate today to make the load a little lighter in the honey-dos and my-dos, the lists that keep getting longer, not shorter when i get home from my golf game and of course, my NORP, a requirement when i really don’t get to bed any earlier and wake up thirty to forty-five minutes before planned.
i was working hard on several posts, one an edited version of a 2009 column in The Lebanon Democrat. i began looking for a photo of my mother, a particular one. Of course, i couldn’t find it, in my computer files, in the cloud, or an actual photo. It’s there, but tonight to verify i really am electronically, technically challenged (and several other challenges) the photo in all of its forms disappeared from view because i only have eyes…oh, excuse me: that’s a song lyric i can’t get out of my head.
i searched. i didn’t find what i wanted. But instead i found this:
It was the thing to do in 1918. Put your photos of your children on a post card and mail it for what? Two cents.
That is my mother, Estelle Prichard (Jewell) on the left and my aunt, Evelyn Prichard (Orr) on the right.
Oh, what a world it must have been. So simple. So small. So country. “The Novelty Studio / Lebanon, Tenn.” it reads. Don’t know about that one. All i knew was “Seat’s. ” Even that was a long time ago when the world revolved around home, home town, family, folks.
And they sang “Bringing In the Sheaves” and they brought in the sheaves and it had some problems but folks were folks back then and there and sometimes i wish i were there then.
Well, you see i stayed up late, much later than usual two nights ago because i was on a roll, writing about the rain and things. So today, i was going to catch up on my writing on my book. It was a busy day with a dental cleaning and the trash men coming and the honey-do’s and a NORP, in fact two NORP’s, so i was going to catch up on that book writing this afternoon.
But somewhere in the midst of all of this, i caught caught up in a Facebook exchange between John Eagle and John Moriarty. In case you can’t guess, these two gents are from Ireland, southwestern Ireland to be more accurate. Kenmare, County Kerry for John Moriarty; Eyeries, County Cork for John Eagle to be more specific. Neighbors practically. John Eagle lives on the Beara Penisula. John Moriarty’s Kenmare is where the the two counties meet where the Beara and Iveragh peninsulas meet (Either John or both, please correct me if i messed this up.)
We are talking about something better than tourist movies or tour booklets or PR flyers. John Eagle captures what i’m talking about in his wonderful photos and artwork: a magical place so Irish with little tainting from the rest of the world…as it should be.
The exchange in today’s entry took me back, not just to that lovely little corner of the world, which so much reminds me of “Brigadoon,” the 1954 movie but mine is in this corner, not Scotland, but also took me back home to Lebanon, Tennessee. It was not Brigadoon, but it was just a step later of what it must have been like a generation or two before (as long as i did not think about the underbelly, the plague of Southern history and the dealings with people of different skin tones). My lovely trip to that little corner of Ireland the two John’s painted for me validated the beauty and gentle people i had only dreamed before. i met John Moriarty then, and i wish i had met John Eagle.
Their exchange yesterday shows just how wonderful a place and the people are in that little beautiful corner of the world. It all started with a rather incredible photo John Eagle posted:
John Eagle posted this with the comment to John Moriarty: “Is this the place where your relatives come from in the Black Valley?”
(For my convenience, i am dropping the “John” from the remainder of this exchange.)
Moriarty replied: “Yes that is my late Mother’s farm.”
Eagle: “I was over there today showing a couple of friends around, they loved it there.”
Moriarty: “Yes, it is beautiful: many happy childhood memories there. Sadly, all my family from there are now with God.”
Eagle: “Sorry to hear of your loss.”
Moriarty: “When I was a child my uncles Patrick and JohnJoe lived there. Both never married. At Christmas, Patrick would have a candle lighting in every window. I used to love going up to the house and seeing it lighting in that upper window in the Gable, that was my Grandmother’s room when she lived. I slept there many times.”
Eagle: “Thank you. That’s a lovely memory. Do you recall anyone living in the ruin that I keep photographing up after the hairpin bends?”
Eagle: “I well remember lighting candles in my mother’s house at Formanes near Eyeries, we were one of the last houses to have electricity.”
Moriarty: “The house on the bend: it must be one of the most photographed ruins in Ireland. That was the Casey homestead as far as I can recall, they were cousins of my mothers family, the Foleys in Kenmare, O Donovans, Davits, Foleys are all part of that family, I think their Grand Mother came from that house. Agnes, she was amazing and years ahead of her time.”
Eagle: “Thank you. I often go into Davitt’s for a bite. It’s an interesting ruin especially with the snow on the hills. I got lucky with sheep today. I put up some images on Instagram.”
Moriarty: “Cool, if you walk further back along the road you will come to 2 houses and tall standing stones, 5,000 year old way markers the original SATNAV.”
Eagle: “That’s interesting. I must go back there. I was once all the way to the end with Dr. Lyne from Castletownbvere who took me up Carrantouhil.”
Moriarty: “You can hike up and over down in to Glencar. Amazing hike.”
Eagle: “I need my strength to return before I can do that. Not sure I will ever be strong enough to do that sort of climb again, but the idea spurs me on” (John Eagle had surgery and all of the attendant procedures a year ago to this day. He is not only a survivor. He’s continues to be a contributor to goodness in this world).
There were several other comments from several people including one goofy guy, when Mary Jo Knipper McKinley joined in:
“John, Is there where you take your hikes? I would love to hike your family homestead next time we visit. It is beautiful!”
Moriarty: “No, Mary, that is too far away from the hotel to hike there. There is good hiking there up and over the ridge to the right of photo and down into the next village. There are “standing stones” there which are 5,000 year old way markers. The original Google Maps!”
And then Marie Kissane remembered: “Lots of great nights were had in that house: Singing, dancing & of course whiskey.”
Moriarty: “Amazing nights.”
Then, this goofy guy from the Southwest corner joined in asking if could put the exchange on his website, and after getting an okay from both of the John’s, he asked if he ever got there again (moving that way up on his bucket list), if either or both of the John’s would like to take him on the hike. John Eagle responded:
“You are most welcome. I loved hearing what John Moriarty had to say about candles in the windows and who lived in ruin up the road. I think it’s been the best news thread yet. Thanks again, John.”
And then John Eagle told me he would be happy to do that hike with me.
Now folks, there is some magic here. It is a magic place. Those folks are magic people. They seem to have reduced life down to living, enjoying that magic corner, not getting wrapped up in all of the insanity seemingly surrounding us. It is as i remember Lebanon, Tennessee three-quarters of a century ago, even though now i know it wasn’t what it appeared to me, just as i am sure those good folks have their problems as well. But they are of the earth, being people dealing with people. Good people.
So all of you folks stay at home. i don’t want you to crowd that wonderland. i want it the way John Eagle’s photo and John Moriarty’s recollection has captured it.
For those of you who ignore my request and go there, look up John Moriaty at the Park Hotel in Kenmare. He’s the head bartender and the all knowing when it comes to good whiskey. And find John Eagle. He has some of the most incredible photos and artwork of that part of the world. His website is http://www.johneaglephoto.com/index.htm.
Thanks to you two John’s. You have made my day…no, my life a little bit brighter.
It was the Southwest corner’s version of crappy today: high of 68, light breeze, but there were several white clouds in the blue sky. Bummer.
However, the last two weeks, we have had rain. This is good, you see. We haven’t had any rain like for the last four hundred thousand millenniums. However, the weather guessers are predicting doom, not good. For you see, they know the rain is good, but it makes things grow, and for weather guessers who are trying to keep their watchers and listeners on edge, it means there will be more vegetation to burn when the fires come again. Weather guessers have a penchant for making things bad regardless how good they are…sort of like some clown saying a few clouds make it crappy.
But one thing that is good about the rain it clears things up. Yesterday, going from the mainland over that beautiful blue arch of the Coronado, San Diego Bay Bridge, it was clear. So clear, Maureen and i could see for miles, all the way to the horizon, crystal clear, no marine layer. We could see all of the Los Coronados Islands, all of them, and the hundreds of sailboats off the coast with their spinnakers unfurled, catching the wind, and the white sails in the bay, the dark blue-gray of the ocean and bay sparkling.
We were going to see a play: “Camping with Tom and Henry,” a fictional comedy-drama about Thomas Edison and Henry Ford taking Warren G. Harding on a camping trip in 1921. Thought provoking, relevant to today, funny, and sad. It was the Sunday matinee at Coronado’s Lamb’s Theater.
i like drama, plays. i don’t have anything against movies. In fact, my wife and two daughters are aficionados when it comes to movies. Most of my friends enjoy movies. Me? Perhaps i’m too critical, not into making gore as realistic as possible, not enthralled with graphics, not into making something as much like life as possible. After all, life can be pretty miserable at times. Oh, i loved oaters and spaghetti westerns. And i even liked some comedies, even some chick flicks like “You’ve Got Mail,” and “French Kiss” but then again, i was in love with Meg Ryan before she did that thing with her face which seems to be a popular things now a days with women. You know that skin stretching, bio something, they do that make them look like mannequins, distorted mannequins. And i remain a big fan of Christmas movies, almost all of them, “Silverado,” and “Hidalgo.” “Star Wars” sort of wore me out, and the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies failed to match my imagination when i read the books a long time ago and several years after that and pretty much every three or four years after that until they came out with the movies with that wimpy Frodo. And Maureen and i could watch “The Quiet Man” pretty much end on end until the end of time. And yeh, there are several others but i really don’t even know who the actors are now a days unless they are in a television commercial they run during sports events. Sorry. i’m glad other people enjoy them, even wish i did sometimes, but it ain’t me, babe.
But plays? There’s an edge there in live drama. And they have to project. You can get wrapped up, but it’s not reality and you know it. It’s your imagination and theirs and you can see it and feel it. No, i’m not talking about all of those silly things with flying wires and fantastical makeup and smoke and mirrors. i’m talking about acting, drama, real, no kidding, no retakes acting. i like it.
And we went. And i enjoyed the hell out of it. And we went over to our friends’ house afterwards. Pete and Nancy Toennies. And we all went to dinner at the Bleu Boheme in Kensington and i refrained from ordering the mussels, something i’ve never done before, and i even refrained from a martini, which goes well with such an atmosphere and had some wonderful pork dish which i cannot pronounce because i can’t do French well and Maureen is used to saying all things French for me (and then giving me shit about it, which i deserve) and the world was fine, beautiful, and mine for a day.
But i’ve been thinking about that rain. i love the rain. i especially love Tennessee rain in August when the heat and the humidity are draining you and you know you are going to early football practice and lose ten or fifteen pounds of water weight and you walk out the front door of that little house with the Chinese elm in the front yard and you can smell the rain on the wind and there is a coolness, perhaps just in your mind but you can feel it and you can smell it and you see it coming moving like wisps of relief in your mind and the world stops for a moment to let you smell and feel the rain.
i used to like to run in the rain. i loved running in the rain on the beach. One day about a million years ago, i took my usual run at lunch from the Naval Amphibious School, Coronado. i chose to run the long route around the island. i was not much further than a block or two from my start when it began raining. i continued. i kept at it, rerouting to extend my running in the rain, around the island and then when i got to back to the beach i chose to run between the beach and the Hotel del Coronado before the development men and the investment men gussied it all up and raised the prices to keep the riffraff like me from going and i ran on the sidewalks about a foot in water and i got to the end of the hotel property and they had put up a temporary fence to keep the riffraff like me from running through that water but i had fooled them by coming from the other way but the fence was still in the way so i climbed the fence because those California folks weren’t about to be out in that rain and i ran back to the base, late because my run of forty-five minutes had been rerouted into water running, fence jumping hour and a half and i was beat to hell but totally exhilarated like that time in Sri Lanka when the Aussies took us out in the country for a “Hash House Harriers” run and they let us out of the bus and the trail started out running on the berms of rice fields and up the hills into the unknown and it started to rain and we ran down the hill following the trail through a village of mud huts with grass roofs, no shit, and could look in the glassless windows to see life as we didn’t know it so we kept running through the rain where the old man in the white robe and a white beard looking like a guru motioned us to run into a dead end canyon and when we turned around and came out he was laughing like a mad man and the rain got harder and the incline increased until we came to a bluff where the only way down was to slide down the side by holding onto the vines so we wouldn’t plunge to stupid death and reaching the bottom we ran on the road for another mile after the last nine or ten or lord knows how long with the detours and the old man and the mud huts and we were knee deep in the monsoon rain and we reached the covered shelter where the buses were parked but we ran into the shelter and grabbed the steaks off the Aussies’ barbies with our hands and grabbed the Fosters out of the ice bins and drank and laughed like crazy with the Aussies and…oh yes, i could go on no doubt but i remember the rain. i wrote about it once because of two women. One is with me today. The other might have been here instead in a different world with a different end or i might have been there in a different world with a different end but it didn’t happen sort of like a parallel and less dramatic Sayonara like Michener wrote and the movies butchered it and i am glad i wasn’t like the movie or how i would dream it would turn out then but when it rains i think of both of those two women like when i wrote this:
You never smell the rain coming here. It just arrives, usually descending from an established grayness. Sometimes it comes in a sudden sweep but always from the west, expected, not interrupted in its journey as the land abuts Balboa’s folly to the west.
Back down in the heart of Tennessee rivers, hills and lakes, the rain has no season but comes of its own accord, its own rhythm, its schedule not dictated by some seasonal order.
It is more whimsical. There you can smell the rain coming. It clears the nostrils and lungs, smelling more fresh than wet, more cleansing. Out here, there is oil from the earth, dust from the desert air to the east, and salt from the sea that mutes the feel of coming rain, chokes off the smell of fresh rain. Back in Tennessee after the smell awakens your attention, you can see it rolling across the hills in sheets, the sight of it sweeping across the country embellishes the smell of the rain.
Today is a warmer version of Tennessee rain. In the summer, i would infrequently walk hatless in the Tennessee rain, but only alone. Many years ago, i would walk the beach or countryside of Virginia or Newport, Rhode Island in all but the coldest, breath-of-sleet rain. One year on the island of Kyushu, i walked the harbor roadsides of Sasebo in the rain, the only time i have pursued such an individual, quiet joy with someone else.
Delicate and tiny, Kosyko was exquisite with her dark hair wet but tightly clinging to her skull exposing her delicate neck; you know Japanese think the neck of the woman is a key to beauty. It rained a lot on Kyushu. The rain and her parents tragic fate in Nagasaki may have contributed to my love for her .
Here, over on the island that has covered its charm with tourist dollar chasing, i used to run in the rain. This was before encroaching baldness made a visor look out of place on my head. i would wear an old visor from Texas A&M – where i never walked nor ran in the rain and never smelled it either – to ward off the rain drops from my eyes.
This afternoon, i would like to walk with my lifetime love in the rain. We would not talk, i envision and more or less say to hell with all but us. She would be just as exquisite as tiny Kosyko with her hair clinging closely to her skull exposing her delicate neck and the Japanese had it right. i would not love her more. i already have pegged out that meter. i could just have another way to love her again.
i wish that she could smell the rain coming in Tennessee with me.
It is late, i mean really late for me. i am on a roll. Haven’t been on a roll like this for a long time. Feels good. Maslow’s level of self-actualization is burning the night oil. While rolling, i hit some poems i posted earlier. Then, i stumbled across this one. i am not sure if i sent it to Cy or Walt and i am almost positive it has seen no other eyes until i post this. Cyril Vaughn Fraser, Jr. was a good man. My friend from lord knows how many baseball games and even more one-on-ones in the Castle Heights gym, Mike Dixon, also worked at Dupont, and he immediately waxed eloquent on Mr. Fraser’s reputation at the Old Hickory plant when he learned of my connection. Here are my thoughts when my mother notified me of Mr. Fraser’s passing.
on the passing of Cyril Vaughn Fraser, Jr.
i sit here wondering in the dark of the cool, just north of the border august night
down mexico way about not a thing in particular except the southern lady i call my mother who has been calling me today because she doesn’t trust those infernal phone message machines; won’t have one in her house; she says can’t abide talking to a machine; she says there is too much to worry about without having to worry what people say when they aren’t talking to you but some machine; she says she’s right. i know she’s right on, having two of those damnable machines myself.
my mother, the southern lady who makes fried corn and meat loaf you would kill for and tennessee country ham all the doctors and my wife says you shouldn’t eat along with the biscuits and gravy and butter and jelly and buttermilk damn near everything good, calls early on and damn near wakes me up because daughterwifeme made an end run to disneyland to shake hands with mickey and hear pocahontas rewrite history again where a chicken sandwich costs a sight more than chicken and white bread costs that tastes oh so much better back in fox hollow before it became a housing development before it was named fox hollow and just a farm with a tin roof house and earth covered hill of an root cellar in the back where foxes don’t run now or ran then but then much chickens ranclucked; the old man did run foxes that is in Tennessee, just down the road from where the man used to live that my mother called about:
that man died, she said.
Cyril Vaughn Fraser, Jr. died, she said; read it in the newspaper obituaries, she said.
notjustlikethat as ee cummings would like us to say, like most of us would want it to be, but pretty damn quick by government standards; she told me the services, cremation, all of those attendant necessities that follow death like a disease were pretty much done she said, and being the southern lady and my mother, she told me where the funds in lieu of flowers should be donated
78, she said the paper said in the article in the paper she was sending me. dead.
Cyril Vaughn Fraser, jr.
my first look at culture or what i thought it should be
proper, but dry humor, Mr Fraser, Virginia kind of drawl in the comfortably small house with everything in its place on the quiet neighborhood corner of Jackson’s old plantation called old hickory where i ran around with his boys and was introduced to upper gentility, another world from the limestone rock just below the surface of hill farming middle tennessee just up the road all along the Cumberland demarcated by the white washed fences common on Andrew’s old land.
it did seem cooler there especially when Mr Fraser would invite me to have a “martin” with him, which was a martini poured from a beefeater’s bottle straight from the freezer from whence he and the lady neighbor partook on the front porch one summer late afternoon until she had to ride her Saint Bernard across the street to home and hangover heaven
blue shirt sear sucker suit weejuns gone.
lately, his older boy told me his father had moved across town like our other friend Bivo to higher cotton, which is appropriate for a man with a new wife and all long after his boys and me were amidst all the hellbentforleatherlivingwithoutanet, but not to the edge of those that followed
i remember him smallish precise dapper gentlemanly southern who had a thing for Michigan in the summer, questing for knowledge and appreciating with his· sons as well as the crackle of the love of life i remember
most sad for me; his boys, whom i consider among some of my best friends passing through my times, especially the older boy for Cyril Vaughn Fraser, Jr. was a friend also who could laugh and enjoy youhimusthem without reservation as long as there was a quest for knowledge.
the stars across the border grow dim; the added weight on my shoulder makes me weary thinking someone must carry that love of life and knowledge and gentility on to others
i do see the lights of the city south of the border smiling, and thinking of how i would have liked to have taken Mr Fraser on a tour of this Eden which some ways even makes Michigan in the summer pale a bit.
i wrote this somewhere in the South China Sea between Pusan, Korea and Qui Nhon, Vietnam in my second tour of duty in 1970 before getting out the first time…or maybe it was the third if you count NROTC at Vanderbilt and the following Navy Reserve stint (another story or two to be told someday, someday). i revised it in 1996 and again in 2013 when i included it in A Pocket of Resistance: Selected Poems . i wasn’t going to include poems in my posts today, but this seemed to capture some thoughts i have about now.
buffalo bob and jeezus
where do we live, in heaven or hell; why not either? ho jeezus.
is it restlessness, human nature, or abject and terribly humane stupidity driving us toward
life in a fast lane leading to no exit from the super highway down the road. oh
my problem is i was/am an innocent, well unarmed to seek a feasible answer while
the world runs amok,
looking for the next best thing to change,
which really bears no difference to the last change where
we reel, rockin’ n’ a rollin’ way ’til the break of dawn, shoobey doo wah.
other things of which we know not but are unwilling to admit
other than our own interpretation.
mister aspiration: don’t hide your arm, and smoke a lucky, and tell the truth.
tomorrow, someone may ask us where we’ve been:
homer: long game winning ball or the iliad.
live well among the cedars of the limestone-pocked hills where the cherokees
did not cherish nobility anymore than the white invaders who
bought, sold and still try to own the negras
who changed their name several times to avoid their own perception of embarrassment or
the other coast where high desert promotes the same silly-ass idea of superlativeness which invades places, our spaces
having no climate but drinkable water. ho, santa ride, ride, ride Rudolph,
have you heard of
mr phinneas t bluster and, god bless her, princess summerfallwinterspring? maybe buffalo bob and howdy doody had it right all along
i wrote this as i was returning from Korea after a year of taking Republic of Korea troops back and forth from the war. Spending about eleven days at sea, five to six days in Vietnam ports, two days in Pusan, Korea, and about six in Sasebo, Japan in a cycle which had created…well, some creativity in my heart and on paper. Some of it was not so cheery. This was one of those.
the dark side of the hill
I was walking down a small-town street
on a cold, harsh Sunday
when from a corner of an alley
a huddled, gnarled old man
leering from under a soiled and torn fedora
spoke to me:
“I have been to the dark side of the hill,
“I can tell by your gait,
you are headed there;
frivolity and adventure
are what you seek,
but it’s not there, son;
it’s not there nor anything you would want to find.”
I paid no heed, passing away
from the old man,
continuing to pass through
the sun-reflected snow
to the zenith of the hill,
the wind is biting
on the dark side of the hill;
there is no sun
to disperse the cold.
now, on some small-town street
on a cold, harsh any day
in the corner of an alley,
a huddled, muddled, gnarled old man
i have been to the dark side of the hill;
my gait is altered.
i have been putting off writing this because, quite frankly, i’m a bit scared. It is not of my nature to write just for me. This is not a piece of writing i suspect many who read my usual stuff will enjoy. i try not judge how people react to my writing except when they attack me for the rare political comments i make because it doesn’t agree with their political position. As i told my friend Cyril Vaughn Fraser this past weekend, i am nearly always aware of who might be reading and tailor my writing based on my perception of how they will receive it. Not this one. This one was written by me for me. i hope you will go along for the ride.
Friday, March 10th, while whiling away the hours waiting for the 6:00 p.m. start of the Vanderbilt, UCLA baseball game at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles, Alan Hicks and i suggested to Cy Fraser we should go to the Getty Center, John Paul Getty’s gift to LA and the world, a campus including the Getty Museum and the Getty Foundation dedicated to research and preservation of the arts. Alan and i had been to the Getty before. We knew Cy’s inquisitiveness would make the visit worthwhile.
When we got off of the tram from the parking facility and walked up those magnificent stairs to the entrance hall, before we reached it we saw the large hanging sign announcing “Museum of Obsessions,” the celebration of Harald Szeemann, the renowned and visionary Austrian, structured in “a surprising series of thematic interests: avant-gardes, utopias and visionaries, geographies, and grandfathers” (Thanks, Getty Center). Of course, being men we laughed at the title and said we had to go see the “Museum of Obsessions.”
We veered off to the research center where the Szeemann exhibit was located. And in we went.
Now i have not been a fan of modern art. i have tried. Especially since i learned Alan and Jim Hicks mother, “Becky” Tarwater was an item with Jackson Pollock until that smooth talking Tennessee doctor rode into the big city and swept his East Tennessee sweetheart away, did i attempt to understand…futilely. But i’v kept trying.
Alan (and i) are into the Impressionists. Alan had read on the program about the tour in the East Pavilion about Degas. He moved through the Szeemann exhibit quickly to get to the tour. i studied for a while. Cy was trailing. When i finished, Alan was anxiously (almost: i don’t think i’ve ever seen Alan anxious except watching Vanderbilt sports events). We sat looking out over the parapet to the magnificent garden below. He said he must leave. i said i would like to go, not for the tour, but to see the Impressionist art collection. We discussed how. He called Cy. No answer. We determined Cy must have left his mobile phone in the car. i said i’ll go back, find Cy, and tell him where we will be. Alan said so long and headed for the tour. i went back inside. Found Cy. Told him the plan. Then i realized it wouldn’t work. We would be too scattered. i decided to wait.
i returned to my seat underneath the arbor, breathed deeply, and watched the few visitors who had wandered down, mostly in curiosity, to check out the “Museum of Obsessions,” and the staff, seeming a bit too smotheringly (my word) academic in their conversations as they walked past in supposedly deep discussion when they were likely talking about where to eat a late lunch. The world seemed to go away, and i floated there for a while with the world gone and me in timelessness.
i rose from my floating and went back inside. Cy was sitting on a stool watching a video about one of Szeemann’s projects. Enraptured was the description that came to my mind. i asked him about a placard explaining that minute segment of Szeemann’s rapture. Cy confessed he had left his reading glasses (yes, we are getting older and it’s confirmed with the added contraptions to our lives, but we refuse to believe, or at least accept such restrictions, only wearing the contraptions, like my hearing aids, for convenience, not admitting defeat). i loaned him mine as he had loaned me his to read the menu the night before. i decided to stay as it only made sense to have a mobile phone with Alan and a mobile phone with Cy and me. While Cy watched the video with us interjecting, sharing our thoughts on the enormity of Szeemann’s passion, i walked around looking at the different presentations.
There on one large wall was a piece of modern art. It wasn’t particularly pretty. In fact, it looked like someone had wandered through an automobile junk yard — like the one on Murfreesboro Pike outside of Lebanon where Mike Dixon and i found the hose for his ’53 tank green Studebaker when his hose blew after a ball game in 1961 — collected bits of knowledge, recorded that bit of knowledge on the small pieces, and hung them on the wall. It was a big wall. i studied it and found brownish grey cardboard pieces of different sizes between the collection of strange stuff. The cardboard pieces contained typewritten notes. i determined the notes were about the person who had first hung these pieces somewhere, which had then been collected by the note writer.
i saw the bakelit explanation placard to the left of the exhibit, went back to Cy and borrowed my reading glasses, returning to the placard.
The artwork was created by Ingeborg Lüscher, Szeemann’s partner and eventual second wife. The word captured the essence of Armand Schulthess’s life long obsession. Armand retreated to his home in the woods in Auressio, Switzerland to gather “all human knowledge.” He began to collect knowledge, recording them on tops of tin cans and other small metal and fabric pieces and hanging them on trees, mounting them on rocks, and amassing them in his home along with hand written notes hand bound in bundles of text. On those small pieces of cardboard intertwined with Schultess’s collectibles, Ingeborg writes small sketches of Armand and his existence in his Gesamtkunstwerk (German for an “encyclopaedic” or comprehensive artwork (Thanks, http://www.spacesarchives.org/explore/collection/environment/der-garten-des-wissens-the-garden-of-knowledge/). Schultess called it all the garden of knowledge.
The art and Ingeborg Lüscher’s notes on the cardboard pieces struck me in a different way. i began to think more about the definition of art and admiring not just the works in Szeemann’s “Museum of Obessions,” but the artists who created these pieces and who not only saw their creations as art but devoted their very lives to creating them above all else. Just like Schultess. i went back through the gallery and studied more of the works there. i began to connect. i could see art. Meaningful art. A place i had never been.
i breathed deeply.
i told Cy such devotion to their art is something i’ve never achieved (except once in a long while when i went into a frenzy, a passion, and wrote without heed to punctuation or really even what i was writing but connecting to connections with things that said something to me but perhaps, no most likely did not connect to others, writing for me with no intention of sharing, which of course i did, am, and will: but those pieces and such experiences are rare in my life) because i nearly always had, have specific readers in mind when i put something on paper or a computer screen. It was not contrived but it was purposeful, and i still don’t know why i have this compulsion to write on any level nor why i want others to read my stuff…yeh, my stuff, whatever that piece of words may be, purposeful or from another realm, and that’s okay, and i found myself writing in my head as i went from artwork to artwork, marveling at these incredible, devoted people who ignored our cultural parameters, put aside the petty bickering humans seem intent on pursuing, and even experiencing rejection of the worst form: Schultess’s garden was mostly destroyed by his heirs after he died with only pieces, like Lüscher’s work in the Getty, remaining, and was even put in a mad house for the insane, or whatever we choose to call such abominations.
And then we left. We found Alan and headed to the ballgame, Vandy against UCLA, hotdogs, fan friends, dressed in black and gold: a different world, the one we live in.
And i promised myself i would return more often…to the Getty…to the spot i was in breathing deeply and writing for me, writing stuff deeply important to me, which may read like balderdash to others, writing to write to feel to create to breathe to live.
Like the sea. Like standing behind the centerline gyrocompass in a storm with green saltwater pummeling the bridge, ordering course changes and speed to accommodate the spirit of the sea, the majestic lady, which will never be completely understood but always awed.
And i will return to the world of concrete, HVAC stucco houses, belching automobiles promoting ill will, and golf, and baseball, and parks, and the beach, and the museums, and the diners, and cleaning the bathrooms, and shopping in the stockowner’s stores, and living okay, no well, enjoying it all, except missing where i was in the breathing, living, writing world those other folks like Szeemann, Lüscher, Schultess, and who knows how many others that breathed and lived in a different world.
Yes, he would have been 101 today. He was a lesson in life for me.
i met him when my future fiancé introduced me to her father. JD and i had moved Maureen’s furniture out of an apartment into Ray’s garage while she looked for a new place to live. He was there when we unloaded the furniture.
Ray was an engineer. He was a lover of golf. He loved fun and laughter. He had a wry sense of humor. He became much more than a father-in-law to me. We became close friends. He played golf with my Navy buddies and me. We did projects together. We rode to hell and back to various places, arguing all the way about which route was quickest. He was usually right. We would stop at his favorite places and have a Beefeater on the rocks with a twist. He loved to get to Navy golf courses early so he could have SOS for two dollars. i escorted him through the last year of life before cancer claimed him. Three weeks before he died, he bought a new set of golf clubs. He demanded he would go to his last Chargers’ game, a pre-season exhibition and sit in his season ticket by himself about a month before he was gone. He played almost all of the holes on the Pine Glen executive course at Singing Hills with Jim Hileman and me two weeks before he left me. He gave in and didn’t play the last hole. i was with him before the morphine took total control his last morning and we talked about things that didn’t matter but they did and i will never forget.
He had a raspy voice. He smoked too much. Everyone in his extended family loved him…for good reason. Most of all as far as i am concerned was he loved his family. One of the most loyal men i have ever met. He was, as i said, a good friend. A good man.
Ray Boggs, we had ten years together. Too few. i needed to learn a bit more about Life 101.
No, not “The Age of Innocence.” That’s a movie. i’m talking about the time of innocence. Mine.
And it wasn’t me being innocent, not by any means. But it was my time of innocence. I was a small country town boy in a world of which i was not familiar, and i embraced it hook, line, and sinker without having a clue, even though from my perspective, it was a time i was the smartest i ever was or ever will be. Now, i know too much to be smart.
Three Vanderbilt attendees, 1962-1964, one of whom actually graduated, gathered together in a different world and a different time, like 56 years of time, this weekend far, far, away from that campus on Nashville’s West End. Our lives took us to different places in different ways and made us different from each other.
We have never accepted being different. The core, as this weekend demonstrated, was, is, and will be the same. We embrace our differences. And learn.
We have had our troubles, suffered personal loss, are much less spry with much less hair…okay, okay, Cy still has his hair, but it’s white.
i left home in the late morning Wednesday, drove through Camp Pendleton while a major Amphibious Landing Exercise, a “PHIBLEX” was underway. It brought back other memories, good ones, of organizing, coordinating this rather amazing show of strength through of Navy, Marine, even sometimes Coast Guard joint maneuvers, on that small stretch of shoreline and small area of the camp where I-5 runs right through the middle of the great divide between San Diego and Los Angeles (Thank Heaven!). But those are stories for later. The helicopters launching and landing on the assault ship and landing zone, the Marine track vehicles with one body of the crew projecting from the hatch running pell mell toward the training village, kicking up dust like nobody’s business, remains and an awesome, no, a majestic sight to behold.
An hour later i make a couple of swoops through the flight arrival area of John Wayne Airport when Cyril Vaughn Fraser, III hops in, and we continue the northward trek to Long Beach Airport where we add one Mister Alan Hicks to the mix.
Thus began a visit to my age of innocence.
We checked into our Air B&B in San Pedro, California, a suburb of Los Angeles. It was about perfect for three old guys. It was a middle to low income neighborhood within walking distance to the downtown, filled with good dining of a number of ethnicities. So we ate, visited the Getty, the Queen Mary, the Ports of Call, and found them all good and interesting.
The three of us enjoy exploring the world of people around us.
We went to college baseball games: Vanderbilt vs. Long Beach State (nicknamed “Dirtbags” and you have to love that) at Blair Field in Long Beach, a lovely old ballpark, which generated recollections of Sulphur Dell, the Nashville park for the Vols of the AA Southern Association: Boys and girls chasing foul balls, peanuts, even beer, friendly opposition fans, good times.
Vandy lost, 4-3 on pitching woes, errors recorded and mental, and silent bats at the end of the game.
i loved it.
Thursday, kicking around. No game. Lots of catching up. And then, the highlight of the day:
The Queen Mary “Observation Bar.” We sat at the large windows looking over the bow across the bay at the city sky scape of Long Beach. Visiting the ship, walking the decks, and especially having a drink in the bar makes me feel like i have escaped to an incredible era long gone. This was about the fourth time, i have gone to the Queen Mary. Once Maureen and i spent the night. i thought the stateroom was quaint, romantic, beautiful. Maureen thought it was too small (It was a bit cramped but my goodness, it’s a ship, i thought) and having to maneuver in the tiny head was difficult. For her, i can understand that, but it was a piece of cake for me. In fact, it beat an officers head on a FRAM destroyer. i want to go back and take a tour or two, but i am perfectly happy wandering the decks, dreaming about running into Cary Grant or Greta Garbo and joining them for a drink at the bar. If you are ever around Los Angeles, you should visit if you like to dream.
Then on Friday before the UCLA game, we hit the Getty. i have a post pending on that adventure…later. But we concluded with the UCLA game for Vanderbilt. Jackie Robinson Stadium. Baseball doesn’t get much better than that. The Commodores beat a team ranked higher than them. The Vandy fans almost matched the number of UCLA fans. Met most of them, and those ‘Dore fans are fun. Being men and hungry, we went to a nearby sports bar in
Westwood (You know? Home of John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood), and the yesteryear college bonding got a shock. Crazy, crowded banks of televisions on banks of televisions with sports events no one was watching because the gazillion gabby students were fiddling with their smart phones. Needed that. Takes one down to earth.
A note: i need to thank Maren Hicks. When we checked into our Air B&B, i immediately pulled out my socks to show to Alan and Cy. You see, i made a small donation to Vanderbilt Athletics, and they, in gratitude, sent me some socks, Vandy socks. i was proud of them but also thought it was quite funny. Alan looked disappointed. He dug into his backpack explaining Maren had received an extra pair and sent them with Alan for me. Well, the first game against the Dirtbags, i had not slowed down enough to change into Vandy socks. The Commodores lost. i wore my pair to the UCLA game. Vandy won. i knew about the high probability of rain Saturday and wore other socks. When Sunday came, i put on the socks Maren had sent. Vandy beat TCU.
So i’m pretty sure Vandy could win the rest of their games this season all the way to the College World Series championship if i wear my or Maren’s Vandy socks when they play.
i always knew Maren was magic.
Saturday was rain, but it was a magic day anyway. Alan and i went to USC knowing we wouldn’t watch a game, but we watched the coaches discuss cancellation while we watched the undeniable front moving toward us relentlessly on Alan’s weather radar app. The Vandy fandom was evident. They began gathering in the stands an hour before game time. Then, those coaches decided to begin with a rain delay. The teams retreated to their dugouts while the stadium’s audio kept playing music. So the teams picked their best players and a dance competition from opposing dugouts began. It was fun. For Vandy fans. USC? Not too many to enjoy the dance. Once they determined there was no way to play a baseball game, Alan and i retreated to an old haunt.
Alan was the “Director of the Southern Gateway” for the Maritime Administration for five years. He was a geographic bachelor in Long Beach, commuting on the weekends back to San Francisco to be with Maren and daughter Eleanor. i began working for Pacific Tugboat Service and traveled to Long Beach almost weekly to conduct training and safety inspections. We made it a night. i would stay with Alan in his bachelor apartment. We would play nine holes of golf and then go to dinner, most frequently at the Whale & Ale, a British pub in San Pedro. Saturday, we returned. Nostalgia. Good British food. Nice folks, older, like us, maybe more. i kept thinking of how things change, how we bring in new, fancy, cleaner, neater stuff, but we throw out decorum, a certain way of doing things.
Sunday, our fourth joined us for the final game, “The Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic” was a double header. Vandy beat TCU,7-4, in their final game near the Southwest corner (i don’t count Los Angeles as being in the Southwest corner; Camp Pendleton
separates us, and the concrete expanse of LA is a world unto itself). Walt Fraser, Cy’s brother and a running mate of mine from the past, came over from his home in Pasadena to join us — i must pause here to comment the organizers and Dodger management hosed this event up as much as possible; it was almost impossible how to get tickets, almost; the visiting teams didn’t get blocks of tickets; USC and UCLA did (we got ours at the UCLA game); parking was not available until thirty minutes before game time; the gate security couldn’t tell us the right gate to go to when; it was almost as if they didn’t care about fans from the visiting teams, the ones affected by such poor management; LA arrogance and another reason for me to never be a fan of the Dodgers after they left Brooklyn. But the game, the time together for the four of us, the Commodores playing class baseball made it a damn near perfect afternoon (except for the $15 beer).
And then it was over. i hit the freeways back to the Southwest corner.
The experience caused me to revise my take on city traffic. As my daughter Blythe once so wisely observed, “If you are going to make money in the traditional fashion, you are going to have to live in a place, a city where traffic is a problem.” i agreed then and i agree now. In the past, i have chastised Houston, Seattle, San Antonio, Washington, Austin, and others for bad, bad traffic. LA and New York City were givens. But after this past week, i must proclaim LA is the worst. i never really drove during “rush hour.” Most of it was on the weekend. There was never any of that LA crawl of thousands of cars going no where. But it was constant and it was expansive and it was always. Driving in LA requires total focus because there is enough traffic everywhere all of the time some bozo might take you out. i think i wore a good two or three millimeters off of my molars, grinding them without stop. Bonkers, i tell you, bonkers.
In spite of the traffic, the five days were simply magic from the past. Friends like we hadn’t skipped fifty-six years. Frat brothers and more sharing an old house (ah, the spirit of Maple Manor, another story). Innocence of a different kind revisited. As Bob Seger sang and i have repeated many times, “i wish i didn’t know now what i didn’t know then.”
Magic innocence. Revisited. Thanks Alan, Cy, Walt, and thank you, Maren. i really believe those socks are magic.