Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mama and rainy days...

Back in my childhood, when it rained we had to stay indoors. Something that, quite frankly, I don't think bothers kids these days. But for us it was sheer torture. We had no computers, video games, pay for view movies or 24 hour television designed just for kids. Other than some after school programming during the week, we had to wait until (shudder!) Saturday morning to watch t.v.!! "OMG! LOL! WTH? How did you survive?" We grabbed our "BFF's" (which sometimes constituted everyone in the neighborhood) and ran and romped in woods and creeks and playgrounds. So, obviously, a rainy day meant no fun.

The scariest part of rainy days was the dread that parents would find something constructive for you to do. "You could clean your room." "You could help me string some beans for supper." "You can fold towels." Kill me now! I always wondered why, given these painful circumstances, it was so obvious my mother loved a rainy day. She said it all the time, how much she loved a rainy day. I can see her now,drinking her coffee with no television, no radio - just sitting by the big window in the living room with that cup of coffee watching it rain. She'd watch birds shake feathers and dry off in the trees. She'd watch squirrels curl up in tight little balls on branches waiting until it quit. Somtimes she was reading books by that big window. Books that, more often than not, had Agatha Christie's name on the front. What was it about a dark day that caused one to go on a mission to finish the book and find out "who done it"??

I am now 48 years old. I'm spending most of my time stepping and fetching for a nickel. I think a lot about a lot of things that I never used to think about. Things like where I've been, mistakes I've made, mistakes I haven't made. Things like decisions that worked and decisions that exploded. And things like tomorrow? Oh dear GOD what is tomorrow going to bring?? I think about all the nieces and nephews that I love so much...as much as I would if they were my own. Every time I see any of them, they're either grown or at the age where they now know just how goofy their uncle really is. They're having children of their own, for God's sake! If they're that old, well then I'm, uh... Sleep is sometimes interrupted by these very same thoughts.

And here I now sit, staring out a window on a rainy Tuesday, taking a lunch break from my workday (and the aforementioned "stepping and fetching.") No television, no radio. Just a cup of coffee and a snoring labrador retriever at my feet. Rain's washing the red clay and the grass and the world looks cleaner than it did yesterday. There's a big robin hiding under the patio furniture waiting on a dry moment to pick at the grass and find something delicious for lunch. The chipmunk that lives in the hole by the fence just stuck out its head and crawled back in - smart animal. I feel my blood pressure dropping. I feel like a nap for lunch instead of a turkey sandwich or running errands. I might just pour another cup and start a book I recently purchased. Or I might just sit here and keep staring until it's time to start making those nickels again. In short, Mama, I now understand what you saw in a rainy day.

Olympic Observations

If you don't fall and sprain, break or dislocate something while doing some death-defying gymnastics routine, it should be scored a "10." (or whatever constitutes a perfect score in this digital age in which we reside...17.58324398??) I really don't care if your elbows and your hips didn't occupy the same linear space...if you're still able to walk after doing what you just did, you win.

At the risk of being a judgmental hack, I'm pretty sure Bob Costas is convinced that the reason we're having these Olympic games is to provide him more face time (fairly certain he believes the Lord created major league baseball for the same reason.)

I've long thought the ceremonies (both opening and closing) are too long, too lavish and too overstated. They're no longer about athletes and athletic endeavors - they're about "productions." My point, I think, was proven by the use of farm animals (let me repeat FARM ANIMALS) in the ceremony I witnessed last Friday night. I was shocked to learn the budge for this ostentatious display was $42 million. I was more shocked that the $42 million price tag paled in comparison to Beijing's $100 million opening ceremony budget. One suggestion to Danny Boyle should he be asked to produce something of this magnitude again - less Paul McCartney, more Pink Floyd.

Speaking of opening ceremonies, kudos to Michael Farber @ Sports Illustrated who provided this gem:
"...the avantgardist winter ceremony in Albertville, France, two decades ago, at which each nation paraded into the stadium behind a woman encased in a bubble that stretched from neck to knee while a voice on the P.A. system recited a rhyming couplet that included the name of the country. Mercifully, Nantucket had not declared independence."

In this same piece by Michael Farber, I learned there that the concept of flyovers by military aircraft at sporting events was apparently born (if not born, this had to be the earliest instance of such things) at the 1936 games in Berlin. The aircraft that flew over Hitler and the opening ceremony and the torch relay that day? The Hindenburg.

Good move NBC. For those that avoided any print, online or broadcast information during the day on Monday, July 30 (so as to enjoy the events at night with some degree of anticipation) you ran a promo 6 minutes before her race advising us that gold medal winner Missy Franklin was going to be on Tuesday's "Today" show with her parents. Well played, well played. (as they allowed in this morning's ajc.com, even if you had your t.v. muted, they showed a picture of the 17 year old sweetheart flashing her gold medal.) Perhaps less time should be spent on Bob Costas' hair and more time in the details.

Can you imagine the jokes if they'd used farm animals in the opening ceremonies in Atlanta in 1996?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

John Wayne recorded an album?

Yep, The Duke recorded an album. I might not have known this were it not for the fact that on every 4th of July morning during my childhood, I was awakened by the sounds of this album shouting through our house. It included such "songs" as "American Boy Grows Up" "Face The Flag" and "Why Are You Marching, Son?" The 4th of July was always a day for patriotism, fireworks, brunswick stew at Uncle Ralph's farm for us. No matter what was on the agenda that day, it started with John Wayne being very American. Christmas is a nice holiday. But those 4th of July's are the times when I remember feeling like we really were a family and (church folks forgive me) the holiday I enjoyed the most. Perhaps it's my preference for hot weather over cold weather. Perhaps it's my love of cooking outdoors. Perhaps it's my love of lakes and beaches and summer-type activities that are synonymous with the 4th of July. Or perhaps it's the time spent watching my mother on this national holiday. I realized then that living through World War II and watching so many people important to her give lives and time for our freedom made the 4th of July quite important. So run road races and shoot off fireworks (that scare dogs by the way..sorry, the yellow Lab at my feet asked that I throw that in) and do what you do on the 4th. But remember why we're doing all this fun stuff....and "Face The Flag."

Front Porches and Sunday Dinners

An actor died today. He was an actor that played a hayseed recruit getting into a peck of trouble trying to make it into the army. He was an actor who played the main role in a television series about a small-town sheriff with a big heart and the wisdom of Solomon. He was an actor that advertised Ritz Crackers ("mmmmmmmmm...gooood cracker....") He was an actor that played a lawyer in the big city who was usually the smartest man in the room. But to simply say we're lamenting the loss of an actor certainly doesn't explain why we feel so empty. Why ARE we all feeling the loss of a person we didn't know? I think it's because right here on the eve of our country's birthday, we've lost a part of something that is quintessentially "American." And it has been for several generations. You may not have been able to talk rock & roll with your elders. You may not have been able to talk politics or religion with them (because they surely weren't as enlightened as you!) But you could all sit in the same room and watch Andy Griffith together. It's hard to not first think of Sheriff Andy Taylor when thinking about Andy Griffith's body of work. Mayberry is a world where drug stores still make milkshakes and businesses close on Sundays. It is a world where every dinner is a Sunday dinner and all the world's problems can be solved while sitting and relaxing on somebody's front porch. It is a place where kids still play outside barefooted and human interaction involves handshakes on sidewalks and cups of coffee. Notice I refer to Mayberry in the present tense. I feel compelled to because, though the actor that brought the town to life is now gone, the hope that this perfect spot surely still exists somewhere hasn't yet died. It serves not only as an "ideal" of someplace we'd like to live but of what we strive to be. And that just might live forever in the hearts of those who have watched the same reruns over and over and over and laughed and cried just as hard as we did the very first time we watched them. I'm pretty sure Andy Griffith would tell us all to quit being sad. He'd probably tell us all to go to the filling station and get a bottle of pop and then wander over to the movie house and watch them change the sign on the marquis. It lowered my blood pressure just typing about such things.