Thursday, December 8, 2016
I remember when John Glenn orbited the world. My parents had decided to have some time together/aka a romantic weekend, and my sister and I were sent off to San Clemente to stay with a former housekeeper named Donnie. She fried up corn tortillas, in spite of being Boston Irish, and we ate tacos and watched the TV as the news came in about John Glenn. It was, obviously, the precursor of the moon landing and a bit of a one up to Alan Shepherd. But I remember it vividly.
Years later I read, and then watched, The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. I had no idea that John Glenn’s wife stuttered or that he was a test pilot. I didn’t know then that he would run for Senate and win and would go up in the Shuttle at age 77. He just seemed to me to be a really decent guy. Kinda like my father.
Friday, November 25, 2016
As I get older and older, I realize more and more. This is one of the conundrums of life and aging. At one or two-- or ten-- times in my life I wanted a different name, a different face and a different persona. But let me start with the name.
In the 1950’s my name was a tiny bit unusual. There were no other kids in my school with it, except a boy who lived down Angus Street and spelled his name with a CH. Must have been Irish! Now my name sounds like a chirpy young waitress taking your order. But enough of that. Suffice it say, I wasn’t a “Jason” in the 1980’s.
When I was in junior high and there was a comic strip in the LA Times that I read every morning. I have always read the comics and do so to this day. (And, as a side note, I would like to say that I find MARY WORTH to be the most annoying, supercilious, nosey and self-possessed person on the planet. I am also very suspicious that her hairstyle is changing and she is aging backwards. )
This new comic was one I loved and remember little of, except the name: TIFFANY JONES. Tiffany was British, as were The Fab Four, Twiggy, Carnaby Street and, my all time favorite, Emma Peel. Tiffany was blonde, perky and pretty—though I only saw her in black and white print—and was everything that I wasn’t.
It’s a far cry from going from the morning breakfast-table comics to a name change. Though I respected Brenda Starr, felt for the orphan Dondi, enjoyed Nancy and her antics with Sluggo and was amazed by the square-jawed Dick Tracy with his precursor of the Apple Watch, it’s a bit of a stretch to change one’s name after a comic strip. Tiffany Smithson was not to be.
I am SO glad I didn’t. I wouldn’t want to share a name with a Trump!
Then there was the time I wanted to look like someone else. Who doesn’t? But there was this one actress that I really thought I might be willing to do the Devil’s Deal with to look like and, I must say she isn’t/ wasn’t a glamour girl but more a beauty of the traditional sort. At least a cosmetic company thought so. Fortunately, the Devil’s Deal wasn’t an option and I watched from afar as she –being the same age as I am—(Hey, I’m not wishing for miracles!) aged….and aged….and aged. I will never divulge her name. (Well, maybe, if money is involved.) I saw her today online and thought back to my wish to trade faces with her. Perhaps if she saw me she would be quite relieved. I wouldn’t blame her. But I’m kinda happy that I don’t want to be her anymore. Nor Tiffany Jones.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
As a child, I have a vivid memory of watching Dwight Eisenhower speak at the Republican Convention. He did not have a nice voice like my father…. and husband. Yes. I know this is a bit odd. But I do remember it.
I have touched on my other “political ” experiences in a previous blog—losing to Monica as school secretary, Duane Wong brandishing “ Vote Brown” buttons from behind the kindergarten fence. Mr. C dumping on Kennedy.
But by 1968 I was convinced that I wanted to be a news correspondent. A la Nancy Dickerson. When my mother thought I needed “something” to make me more of her ilk, she booked me on a TEEN TOURS trips. By this time I had been sending fan letters to Nancy Dickerson for a year or more. Nancy was very kind and always wrote back and I practiced my “ Kristie Smithson, NBC News, Washington” line often.
When the Teen Tours trip was scheduled for Washington, D.C. I wrote to Nancy Dickerson—contacitng her from Mt. Vernon-- and she invited me to join her at the D.C studios. I, rather stupidly, put on my best seersucker culottes suit and decided to climb to the top of the Washington Monument. Then I hailed a cab—quite a feat for a 15 year old—and was taken to the NBC studio.
At this time Nancy was doing a five-minute news show at different times during the day. She was one of the only women—maybe two others—on the national U.S. news. She looked a bit like Jackie and definitely had Lyndon’s ear.
So I showed up in the taxi –aged 15--and Nancy greeted me at the NBC studios and complemented me on the yellow and white seer sucker suit and mentioned that she might like that for a step daughters. Then I was ushered in, watched her do her five-minute show from behind a glass and was in awe.
Fast forward to 1969…. I was now 17 and my mom and I were doing a college tour. It was a bit rough as my dad had booked it and was not into the complications that standby flights might incur. In Chicago, my mom went to D.C. and I sat. Finally, I arrived in D.C. I think my mom was pretty pleased that I had managed to arrive at the hotel.
Right about this time, the Senate was voting about the legality of the Viet Nam War. I insisted that we sit in the gallery. Three rows in front of us was Nancy Dickerson and she turned around and said: “Aren’t you the girl from California?” I do believe that my mother was a bit impressed.
Now when I watch John Dickerson report about politics, I cannot help but think of his mom and how kind she was to me. She even gave this advice about college: “Don’t study journalism; study political science. Otherwise you won’t know what’s going on.” And I did. And I never became a news correspondent. But John always makes me tear up a wee bit when I see him doing well.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
I was raised with a great deal of love, some Roy Rodgers and a lot of Walt Disney. To this day, I have trouble differentiating between Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone because they were both played by Fess Parker.
When I entered a new school, out of the cocoon of Ivanhoe Elementary, I was introduced to many new things. Amongst them, was the story of THE TEACHER WHO HAD NO NECK. Apparently, it, THE NECK,
had been "shot off in the war.”
Now, at the time of this story, it was 1962. Viet Nam wasn’t on the radar for most people except a few “advisors;” Churchill, FDR and WW2 were distant memories and Korea a decade past.
Mr. M, as he shall be called, wasn’t all that old. Just had NO NECK. Today he would probably be called “shoulder heavy. ”
I didn’t put a great deal of thought into how his neck had landed so neatly back onto his torso; so precisely that a chunk of his anatomy could be forever displaced wthout seeming to cause damage. I just accepted it. Like I accepted that Hoss and Little Joe were real brothers. I was much too busy trying to figure out how to work “sanitary belts” and giant Kotex pads. And dispose of them without too much humiliation.
Between remembering locker combinations, the lyrics to obscure German songs and gym routines with burpees, Mr. M’s necklessness was accepted and forgotten. He had never been a teacher of mine and I never had to deal with his missing neck.
But that is until the day my grandson wanted a family tale while
we sailed up the Endicott Fjord toward a glacier.
we sailed up the Endicott Fjord toward a glacier.
As the ship rocked back and forth, I told him the story of THE TEACHER WITH NO NECK and he just looked at me.
“Grandma, how OLD were you?”
“”Ummm. Junior High.”
“WHAT! You were in Junior High and you believed that??”
But he still “believes” in the Tooth Fairy and I still believe in the joy it gives me when my grandson and I now have our secret “neckless” shrug that means “let’s laugh.”
Monday, April 27, 2015
I went out late at night recently and looked up at the sky, so starry it seemed like a bad but beautiful case of chicken-pocks had taken it over. It got me thinking of all the places I have lived and place names I’ve had to negotiate.
Growing up in Silver Lake, I was surrounded by the artificially created world of Sir Walter Scott. Though, as a child, I never realized it. The founders of the Silver Lake neighborhood opted for the bucolic characters of a long-dead foreign author as inspiration when naming the streets and landmarks of my childhood home. I attended Ivanhoe Elementary School and walked home along Rowena and Hyperion Boulevards. I had friends who lived on Waverley Drive and I frequently passed Locksley, Kenilworth and Avenel Streets. I’m not quite sure how Hyperion got thrown into the mix; I do remember thinking that these names seemed a bit odd and cumbersome, but they were just part of where I lived. Angus Street had a particularly nice ring to it. It was simple and straightforward.
Then I went away to college in Williamsburg, Virginia and the Scottish names of Silver Lake gave way Native American ones. There was the Rappahonich River, Chincoteague, Appomattox and Manassas, mixed in the many “burgs” and “villes” of Charlotte, Frederick, Harris, Peter and William.
Later, I lived in Stockholm, Sweden for a year. Here, my home was on Vallhallavagen, surrounded by Korsvarsvagen and Roselagstull. The neighboring towns had names like Eskilstuna, Norrkoping and Uppsala. No longer did Hyperion seem so odd.
Another move took me to Scotland, where I had to master not only the appropriate pronunciations, but navigate yet another set of unfamiliar and multi-syllabic names. Achiltibuie, Drmmnadrochit, Auchtermuchty and Ballachulish gave my slightly dyslexic brain a run for its money.
This probably prepared me for a stint in the Pacific Northwest. The pronunciations were different, but the syllabic soup continued with Sammamish, Snoqualmie, Snohomish, Stillaguamish and Mukilteo. Just as they became familiar, I moved again. This time is was to the mother of long, vowel-ridden names—second only to those in the Welsh countryside. (See picture above!)
Upon landing in Hawaii, I quickly learned that the letter “K” was king; sometimes quite literally. Kalakaua, Kalanioloeole and Kapiolani were roads named for former monarchs. Wahiawa, Waimanalo. Waipahu, Kaaawa and Hauula were nearby communities. The state fish is a Humuhumunukunukuapua”a and Papahanaumokuakea is the newly created marine reserve. I lived in a neighborhood with a ten-letter name on an eight-letter street. Names commandeered from Matson ships. After 25 years on the island, I was able to laugh as I listened to the voice on a rental car GPS trying to pronounce Haleakula and Kahului in an almost unrecognizable way.
But my most recent transition, and maybe my last, is to a place that suits me just fine and gives my syllabically challenged brain a much-needed rest. The town has merely one, lone syllable and only four letters: Bend. Too bad the name of my street isn’t just plain old Elm. But it’s not. Got to have some syllables somewhere.