Saturday, April 03, 2010

Scenes from Silver Creek: The Great Hallelujah Egg Hunt

For a small town, Silver Creek sure was sanctified. In addition to mom’s church (St. Edith’s Episcopal), and dad’s church (Our Lady of Angels) we also had the Calvary Lutheran Church, the Church of Christ, and the Ebenezer Baptist Church.

EBC was the closest we had to a holy-roller church and it was founded and run by one of our town’s most eccentric families, the Washingtons. Here’s the picture, two extremely devout Baptists (the gloriously named Hallelujah Washington and his wife, Esther Pride-Washington) have eight extremely devout children, all of whom were given monikers that suggest all were recently-freed slaves:

Bethesda Monday and her twin brother Ezra Monday
Gideon Tuesday
Unity Wednesday
Ezekiel Thursday
Glory Friday
Shenandoah Saturday
Jubilee Sunday

None of the family was, in fact, freed slaves. They were a crop of skinny white kids with skinny white parents who really wished they had been born black so they could have a “real” Baptist church.

The Reverend Hallelujah wanted, above all things, to preach fire and brimstone sermons. He was hindered in this achievement by the possession of a damp-matches and pudding voice. Seriously tone deaf, his desire to be a great religious orator was further hampered by his tendency to put the emphasis on the wrong words in his sermon, thereby often making “the” more important than the word “savior.” He often spoke at city council meetings and other public gatherings and I never lost the urge to giggle when he’d say something like “we’d like TO commend the football team for their great win ON Friday against the Auburn WildCATS.”

I always believed that the eight Washington kids had a hard time living up to their names. I mean it can’t be easy in the modern world to be named Jubilee. But they loved their parents and were there every Sunday to help get the church ready for services. Bethesda and Glory were great at arranging flowers. Ezra and Gideon alternated playing the organ and leading the choir. Ezekiel, who was naturally outgoing, would stand on the sidewalk inviting people in. And both Shenandoah and Jubilee were ordained ministers. The one chore that all the Washington kids balked at, and that was sitting next to Miss Rose Hylam, a vinegary old virgin with a venomous tongue. A termagant with the mixed scent of self-righteousness and rosewater. Miss Rose was the kind of woman who would tell you things "for your own good" that never did you any good. But she was quite rich and the EBC’s most generous benefactor. In her opinion, her copious donations to the church entitled her to her very own Washington at every service, helping her out of her seat, finding the right page in the hymnal, and escorting her down to the social room for punch when the service was over. And, in a mixture of Christian kindness and practicality, the Reverend made sure she always had one of his children there are her personal church-going minion. It was not an enjoyable duty so the kids made sure it was fairly split up with each taking his or her own turn as the sacrificial lamb.

Reverend Hallelujah was a sweet, friendly man who genuinely seemed to like people and was honestly proud to be of service to the community. Although he was not the Martin Luther King type of minister he dreamed of being, he was nevertheless a good man who practiced what he preached. He helped the poor. He forgave the sinners. He went out at midnight to hold hands with hospital patients and got up at dawn to drive the senior club on road trips. He was also he driving force behind the Ecumenical Brotherhood, sort of a Lions Club for Christ where he’d get the priests and ministers of all the local churches to come together for various citywide programs. They would, for example, put together an all-choir sing-along at Christmas time and held annual Forth of July parties at which each church would have a booth where you could buy things that were bad for your teeth and know the money would be going to a good cause.

One year Reverend Hal had the idea to put together an Easter Egg Hunt in Grover Park. All the local churches agreed to take part and mother’s groups all over the county spent days filling brightly colored plastic eggs with candy and small toys. The idea was that all churches would hold Easter services at the same time on Easter Sunday and then the families would gather in the park to let the little ones find the prizes.

Unfortunately for Reverend Hal, and everyone else concerned, Easter weekend coincided with “Senior Prank Week” where high-school seniors at Silver Creek High were expected to play properly harmless practical jokes on the entire town. Things like covering the fire station with toilet paper or putting a fore sale sign in front of city hall.

The year of Hallelujah’s great egg hunt year the seniors waited until late Saturday night when all the plastic eggs had been hidden and then they raided Grover Park. Like the Grinch, they took all the toys and candy. Unlike the Grinch, though, they replaced the surprises with surprises of their own and let the entire town converge on the park, all innocent, on Easter morning.

The first hint that something was wrong was when four-year old Emmy Jeevers found a lovely bright pink plastic egg with a condom inside. “Oooh,” she declared happily, “I got a balloon!”

Other children opened their eggs to find bottle caps, band-aids, walnuts (in shell) and dice. Personally, I thought the dice was a nice touch. The only candy left relatively intact were the marshmallow Peeps, all of whom were in breeding position in proximity with other Peeps.

The more conservative of the town were livid, starting with my ever-self righteous and entirely humorless Aunt Camilla. How dare these high school bullies take away the innocent fun of the children eagerly hoping to find chocolate bunnies amid the wild daisies of Grover Park?

But, oddly enough, the Reverend Hal thought it was hilarious. He laughed and laughed. And when I, along with the other seniors, showed signs of coming off of some serious sugar highs (hey, we had to do something with all that candy) he congratulated us on the prank and then ordered us to rectify the situation while he took the children to a corner of the park for story time.

We quickly pooled our resources and ran hell-for-leather down to Walgreen’s where we pretty much bought out their stock. One frantic hour later the children of Silver Creek were let loose again and got their bunnies, their malted milk balls and more virginal Peeps.

As additional punishment, the seniors had to wash every church bus in town. Hallelujah supervised us and when we were done, took us all to EBC where we were each presented with plastic eggs, each containing a “chore slip” from a local business. I, along with three others, got roped into painting all the picnic tables in Grover park. My friend Sean spent an afternoon building shelves for Jeever’s Hardware. And Bethesda and Ezra Washington, whose inspired idea it was, got the worst punishment of all. They both got Miss Rose duty for the next six months.
Photo of the day: Snow in Philadelphia

It may be Easter weekend, but apparently it's snowing in Philly. At least in my little version of it.

Friday, April 02, 2010

20 Things I've Learned From Watching Movies

1. No matter where you live. No matter what culture you're from. No matter what you're making for dinner. If you go grocery shopping you will come home with a baguette.

2. Never accept a dare that involves a graveyard, a haunted house, or a prom. Always say "no" when anyone begins a sentence with "Hey, why don't we...?"

3. No Broadway musical ever depicted will actually fit in a Broadway theatre. Oh yes, and apparently all choreography in Broadway musicals is meant to be seen from directly above the state.

4. Blood comes out of the body in slow motion.

5. If you burst into song and dance in the middle of the street, nobody will notice.

6. Children of ministers always end up crazy.

7. People can do nothing but bicker for two hours and then declare endless love in the last minutes. Alternately people will have one conversation and fall madly in love and spend the next two hours going through hell for someone they only knew for 15 minutes.

8. Any group of American soldiers in WWII had to include one wise-cracking Italian guy from Brooklyn or the Bronx, and one kid named "Jimmy."

9. If you were a kid named "Jimmy" in WWII your life expectancy was approximately 92 minutes.

10. Never, ever, dig up a mummy. Apparently mummification worked very well because they're all still alive.

11. Life was sexier when we didn't know smoking and drinking were bad for you.

12. America would have lost every war ever fought if it weren't for John Wayne.

13. Before 1950 everyone in America was white with the exception of Pullman porters and Charlie Chan.

14. The miraculous conception of every baby born before 1960 was done in separate beds.

15. Your family didn't officially count as "eccentric" unless Mishca Auer was in residence.

16. Gangsters love their mothers.

17. The only good thing to come out of Nazism is that Hollywood will never want for evil villains.

18. The middle ages were the zenith of cleanliness.

19. A "dame" will always be cooler than a "broad" and a "broad" will always be cooler than a "bitch."

20. Rule number one in The Astronauts' Guide to Getting Along with Aliens is "kill it."
Photo of the day: Stanford Art

This rather suggestive set of curves is, in fact, a sculpture of birds that stands by the Stanford Business School. I love the lines and the sexiness of it. I wish I could remember the artist but I took this over a year ago. I really must take more photos, I haven't had a good shoot since beach day.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Scenes from Silver Creek: My First Love

My first love and I were brought together through a combination of my father, Walter Cronkite, and Time magazine.

Sadly, like all the classic love affairs it ended in tragedy on January 27, 1967 when astronauts Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom, and Ed White were killed in a fire during a test of Apollo 1. You see, I was going to grow up and marry Roger Chaffee.

I didn’t care that he was already married and I was seven. All I knew was that he was handsome and he was an astronaut. That meant he was brave, strong, smart, and being married to him would mean I would get to ride in a parade. For some reason when I was seven my big ambition was to ride in a parade. Obviously I had no career in mind because parade riding is not, as far as I know, a legitimate occupation. I was apparently a dull child. Odd too, because when it came to crushes, all I seemed to fall for was older men. Cary Grant. Gregory Peck and, my real love, Roger Chaffee.

Our love affair started when my father brought home a magazine with big color photos of the Apollo astronauts inside. My family, like most American families in the 60s was space-mad. Anything related to NASA was major news. Dad was obsessed with the space program and insisted on watching every newscast he could, every documentary shown, and every interview with anyone even remotely related to the space race.

Our coffee table was covered with the smiling, handsome, white bread faces of John Glenn and Wally Schirra. And as an impressionable young girl, with a total absence of hot men in town, I developed a wicked crush on Roger Chaffee. I was also vaguely confused because for some reason I thought we were related. This did not, strangely enough, affect our engagement. But because there were photos of him around I got the idea he was some distant, attractive, clean-cut uncle. And I’m not sure why I fixated on him as opposed to one of the other astronauts, but he was definitely the one I picked out.

To this day I still think he was wonderfully handsome. But back then I also thought he magic. Space flight as a concept was mysterious to me. Not because I was too young to understand science. But because I was too young to get what all the fuss was about.

Growing up on a diet of quirky sci-fi flicks (my brothers were addicted) I thought space travel was a given. We’d already been to Mars, hadn’t we? And wasn’t space full of amphibious monsters and cheesy special effects? What was so exciting about the prospect of going to the moon? I’d thought we’d already been there, so I just didn’t get why everyone was so excited and why it was the topic of conversation all over the world. (OK, all over Silver Creek – but back then Silver Creek was the world.)

I thought maybe everyone was in love with Roger Chaffee and that’s why the world was talking. Wow, look at this handsome man who will soon marry one of our own, going to the moon for the 800th time and fighting amphibious monsters with his bare hands. What a guy.

I didn’t understand “dead” then. My only real experience with loss was with pets or people I was not going to grow up and marry. I’d recently buried Badger, an asthmatic hamster who got a cigar-box coffin and a teary, off-key rendition of My Country ‘Tis of Thee. (Don’t ask why.) But losing my fiancĂ©e was rough.

I remember my dad turning on the TV and Walter breaking the news. Dad was stunned. Mom said a prayer. Everyone was quiet except for me asking “what? What?” And not getting an answer. Eventually dad told me, gravely, that there had been an accident and some of the astronauts had died. I asked if Roger was OK. (I figured since we were going to get married it was OK to call him “Roger” and not Mr. Chaffee.) And dad told me he was dead.

Mom had to explain dead. “Like Badger,” she said. And I pictured my handsome hero in a huge cigar box with me singing My Country ‘Tis of Thee. I think I cried. I cried harder when I asked if I could go to the funeral and mom said no. I asked if he was going to be buried in Silver Creek and got another no.

The next day I took the photo of Roger I had stolen from one of my father’s copies of Life, rolled it up in an old paper towel roll, and buried it next to Badger.

I didn’t sing anything. But I did swear I’d never fall in love. And I never did.

Until Sean Connery.
Photo of the day: Pink

For a while we thought we were getting some Spring. We had a few days of sunshine and warm weather. Nice enough to open the windows and let the fresh air in. But the rain rolled in last night and continued today. Tomorrow is supposed to be cold and gray as well. So I turned to a photo of last season's roses, to remind me that soon we will have more sunshine.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Little Knowledge
Husband turned 40 yesterday. I turned 49 in December. Yup, 49. I'm going to be 50 on my next birthday and just typing that gives me the heebie-jeebies. And yet, not.

My beloved best friend died of AIDS in his 30s and I remember his saying wistfully that he wished some day he could turn 50. Sadly, he didn't. So I will for him. Proudly. When I hear people complain about getting older I cannot help but think that it's far better than the alternative.

Husband's turning 40 has got me thinking. In some ways it gave me a bit of the blues, but in another it made me feel...content.

When I was younger, the word "content" would have made me gag. What an awful thing to be! And yet as I've gotten older and have finally gotten to know myself better I have come to appreciate the wonders of being content. I suppose when I was in my 20s the concept would have been interchangeable with the word "settling," but now I find it a wonderful state of mind.

I love my life. My wonderful husband and my adorable cat. I love my work at the shelter and the fact that I am lucky enough to be able to spend my time doing something worthwhile. I love my cozy home and my amazing friends. I love the feeling of utter bliss when I'm curled up in the world's most comfiest bed with the man I love and the cat who drives me crazy.

And I love not being 20. Dealing with horrible first dates and existential angst. Am I pretty enough? Am I smart enough? Am I too smart? Will I ever stop dating losers and meet a guy with good oral hygiene and a sense of humor? Will I ever make enough money to afford both rent and food in the same month?

Now I know who I am. Mostly. I still surprise myself. I still learn things. I'm not perfect and I know it. It's OK, as long as I don't stop trying to get better. I've learned to cut myself enough slack to find peace, but not enough that I let things slide. (OK, maybe I slide too much -- but I'm working on it.)

And I'm sorry to get all dull and philosophic. But hey, as I've said before, this place is all about me.
Photo of the day: Land

A little grass. A lot of sand. A beautiful day in California.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Old Friends
I've been in a weird mood lately and have turned for comfort to old friends. By that I mean old, favorite books. I find something wonderfully peaceful about reading books I know practically by heart. At the moment I am happily curled into Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers.

Old books are lovely. Especially when they fall open to a familiar, beloved page. When you have the blues there's nothing quite like letting a book fall open naturally and saying "oh yes, this is the part where they have dinner." Or "how wonderful, here's that beautiful passage about truth."

There are some books that I have truly enjoyed, loved even, but have no desire to read again. And yet others that I can read once a year and still enjoy. I wonder why that is? What makes one novel so repeatable and another a one-time only event? What makes it more curious is when there are some books by an author that I can reread and others I cannot. For instance, I love Jane Austen and can pick up Pride and Prejudice or Northanger Abbey and happily lose myself for hours. Emma, on the other hand, I cannot.

There are nights like tonight, when the rain kicks up and the wind moans down the street. When I'm vaguely discontented that I haven't done enough to save the world or disappointed in myself for not exercising more or eating more spinach. When my back is sore and my feet are cold. And yet when there are old friends, like Dorothy L. Sayers, the world is warmer and I am happier.
Photo of the day: Happy Birthday Husband

And thanks for being my best friend. I'm so proud to be married to you. You make every day better.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Photo of the day: Stacks

Who says vinyl is dead? It's not at KZSU.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Photo of the day: A Meerkat Indeed

From the ZF Zoo, who could resist?