Volume XVI, 33
Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVI, No. 33
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Today is Halloween. It is also my good friend, Ed Kohler’s birthday. He is a very “knowledge-in-almost-any-field” musician (he played flute in the Navy band, and has a Bachelor’s degree in Music, from USA- where, as his piano teacher, I got to know him and his uncanny brain) He is a librarian (with a master’s degree in that subject from FSU. Later, he worked with another good friend of mine: Dale Hudson. In the Music Library there): Masseur and barber (with licenses in Alabama and Florida); Ed is also an artist (you’d have to see his music manuscript, or any other printed matter, to believe it); he gives the best hair cuts of any of the many barbers I have used; his massages are truly given with a velvet touch (and it is also golden). When I moved into this house, way back in 1969 (that was the year of Hurricane Camille) he asked me what I planned to do with all of those left-over old bricks, and then volunteered to turn a large area of my back yard into a nice brick patio. There is even a fireplace (which is simply ornamental, as the bricks were not fire-proof).
I could go on and on, but suffice to say, there is not one thing that I would not be surprised to see him do it—and doing it better than anyone else.
I used to buy sweet basil seeds (I love that stuff on or in almost anything to eat that is Italian). Out of a minimum of six packages of seeds, I’d do well to get ten healthy plants to survive. Ed took one package back to Pensacola (he had returned home to care for his father, and then his mother until their deaths) and a few weeks later, he drove up with the back end of his car full of trays of tiny (but, oh how beautifully healthy they were! Ana the aromas was mouth watering)
How does he do it? And he has (even now) the energy to work in his yard all day! And, believe me when I say that in this area, only Peggy Griffin can beat him.
When he finally told me his birthday is October 31st, it all became clear as glass: he is a Warlock. And if you saw Jack Lemmon in “Bell, Book and Candle” back in 1958, you know what a Warlock is!
On Friday, I had laser surgery performed on the Retina of my right eye, by Dr. Semple (who takes nothing but patients with detached retinas, macular degeneration, or the problem I had.) My cataracts were removed from both eyes several years ago. The results were spectacular for about four years. Then my vision began growing blurred. I went back to the same surgeon, who said a film had grown back over both eyes (which is not at all unusual) and that he could treat it in about two minutes. But, had done with the cataracts, he would do only one at a time, with a week between the procedures. I had the left eye done first, and remember nothing about the procedure, so I believe I had been put to sleep first. He said it had been a complete success, so we scheduled the right eye to be done the following week. Meanwhile, I happened to look in a mirror and closed my right eye, and my left eye immediately looked as if I were squinting. The, I closed my left eye and the right eye was its normal size. After several repetitions of this, I felt something had to be wrong, and it was. I called to cancel my appointment for the following week; then I called the clinic on Dauphin Street, where three or four different doctors examined me. The next to last last was Dr. Semple. I told him my story and after a thorough examination, as he (which included taking pictures of the eye with strange looking cameras), he said I had been wise to cancel that appointment. He told me he could probably repair some of the damage to my left eye, but could guarantee only 30 percent of success. I thanked him, but said I’d need more encouragement than that. So, he sent me to yet another doctor (in the same building) to be tested for glasses that might help. They did very little good. This was May 5, 2009. I am still amazed that it took me so long to have what I knew when it occurred to me was a 14-karat Brainstorm! Why not go back to him to ask if he couldn’t remove the film from the right eye! But why had he not suggested this himself? I was able to get another appointment, which was Friday; he examined me again and said it would be a very simple laser surgery that would last about five minutes. I almost fainted with joy! I asked when he could do it, and he said, “How about tomorrow?”
And yesterday (which had been tomorrow) I underwent one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was fully awake and actually enjoyed the entire thing! Before he began, he had to insert a contact lens into the right eye. I forgot to ask what had happened to it when my surgery was completed. My chin rested in a little cup while my forehead pressed against the top of the apparatus. There was a tiny green light to the left, which I was to keep in view through the entire procedure. He showed me the laser gun and told me each time I heard it pop, he was taking off the film. I relaxed and the shooting began. I can only tell you that to me, it was almost like watching a 3-D science fiction movie: with one eye on the green light, and the other eye being bombarded with laser beams (each shot seemed to send something flying off the round object I assumed was the right eye), I never felt even the slightest pain, nor was I nervous once it started. I had total confidence in this doctor, who kept up a reassuring explanation of everything as he did it. Through it all (he had not exaggerated when he said it would be over before I knew it.) “OK,” he said, ‘it’s all over—and you did great!”
I am to go back in two weeks for a check up, and he said the results would be a little better each day for about a week. I am happy to say I can already see a big improvement: yesterday I worked an entire crossword puzzle in the newspaper, and for the first time in a year and a half, I could see the numbers on the clues as well as in the puzzle’s grid!
Ginger told me, in a furry aside, that she is mighty happy that she is not black; today, especially.
I felt the already familiar pencil eraser poking into my back. It was Jackie, passing me yet another illegal note. This was the most serious thing you could get punished for in Miss Burn’s classroom. I had become so familiar with my friend’s method that I had at least ceased to jump almost out of my skin when the jab took place. I lowered my right hand and even managed what I felt was a convincing yawn, as my fingers curled around the small piece of tablet paper I was being made a criminal by accepting. Then, not too quickly, I raised my hand (with the message wadded up inside) and, as if reaching inside my desk for a book, I unwadded his note and barely had time to read, “do you want to go the drug store after school for a cherry phosphate?”
“Francis Imbragulio and Jackie Wilson---“ her voice rang out suddenly. I almost fainted. I could just see the disgrace that was surely about to take place. “Come to the front of the class.”
I prayed that my legs would support my body as I rose and began to move slowly (as in a trance) towards her desk.
“These two young men have won the prize for the cleanest and best cared-for teeth in this classroom.”
My heart felt as if it were going to fly out of my chest, so great was my relief. I glanced over at Jackie, who was standing to the left of me, to see him grinning that mischievous grin he had, that showed all of his prize winning teeth. Helen would have called it “grinning like a Jackass eating briars!”
“Francis,” it was Miss Burns calling me again, it’s time for your piano lesson.” She had been giving the second grade class its spelling lesson,
I had to walk down the hallway to the first door on the left of the building’s front doors. I tapped gently on the door. “Come in,” Miss Alline Hill’s voice sang out cheerfully.
This was to be my tenth piano lesson, and so far I was doing great, my teacher assured me. I handed her my copy of John Thompson’s “Teaching Little Fingers” to play, and she opened it to my Indian Wigwam piece, which was supposed to be memorized for today. I loved the little piece, and enjoyed playing its simple repeated chords in the left hand that represented tom-toms, as the right hand played the “Indian” melody/ Sadly, all she ever had to do for me was play a new piece, and I would simply play it back to her “by ear” and I was not being taught how to read music. She was smiling broadly as she told me that she wanted me to play it that week for Mattie Lou Walley’s Women’s Club monthly meeting.
“OK,” I said. I knew this was no big deal. George was always having to play for this or that (he and Daisy Sevens were Miss Hill’s top two students) and, of course, I had no fear of playing the piano in public yet,
We all had two 30-minute lessons a week in those days. Miss Alline’s fees were $3 a month, but because she now had two of us from the same family, Daddy had to pay only $4 for both of us, This was my last lesson for the week, so after she had played a new song from my red book (the drawings for each piece were really cute!) and I had played it back for her, she reminded me to be at the Walley’s house by four the next afternoon, I assured her Anna would have me there in plenty of time. “Nanny” loved to drive our still new green Chevrolet better than anything else, it seemed to me.
The next afternoon, when Anna picked me up after school, I had forgotten all about my Richton debut as a pianist. “Now, Si,” she began with the nickname my siblings were calling me more and more frequently lately (and I had never cared for the name Francis, even though my name was spelled with an “i” while Helen’s confirmation name used an “e” between the “c” and the “s”) so I really preferred this slightly more masculine moniker/ “Do you want to go home now, before I have to take you to Miz Walley’s, or would you just as soon wait at th’ Market?”
This question brought me back to reality that I had forgotten. “Oh, let’s just go to th’ market. What time are you gonna take me there?”
“Well, Miss Hill said ‘Four o’clock, didn’t she?”
“I guess so,” That’s how unconcerned I was about the whole shebang/
“So, I guess we need to get you there a little before four.”
By the time we arrived at the place where I was to give my never-to-be-forgotten first public performance, the parlor was literally filled to the brim with Richton Society women. I was happy that there were so many to hear me “show off”. Such is youth and inexperience.
“Francis,” Mattie Lou grinned broadly as I was led into the room full of ladies, “you are so sweet t’come t’be our entertainment for the Club!”
At this stage of my life, I was still painfully she about conversing with adults, but I didn’t mind being in their company. I smiled in reply/.
“Girls!” her voice sang out, “Yawl all know Francis. He’s gonna play a piece on th’ piano for us/”
There was a spattering of uncertain applause. I walked briskly to the piano (which looked even older than ours and had hardly any of its Ivories still intact). I sat down began my solo. The two notes that made up the left hand’s entire part of the very brief composition, made no sound at all. I could hardly believe my ears. I played the second of my “tom-toms” and tried to hit the missing note harder this time. There was nothing to be done but plat my solo and get it over. I was heartsick when I finished and they applauded as if they had just heard Paderewski playing Beethoven’s ”Moonlight Sonata”. Well, at least they clapped” I said later to Miss Alline (who was one of the club’s members) after the meeting was over and we were over, and we were enjoying strawberry ice cream (in cute little bowls) and pound cake.
Later, my teacher apologized profusely for my dilemma. “Mattie Lou told me she had just had the piano tuned six months ago, but I didn’t even think of asking her if any notes didn’t play!”