Volume XVI, No. 46
Frank Fax Facts
Volume XVI, No. 46
Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011
SOS: Last week I gave one of you a copy of a children’s short story titled, “The Saga of Oliver Jones” and asked you to read it and let me know what you thought of it. Since then, I have found three pages that are obviously lacking in the manuscript I loaned you. Also, I cannot find the original anywhere. Please contact me if you have the little story (all I remember is that it was a lady who reads Fax Facts. I believe I gave it to her at the Bridge Center).
Since leaving St. Edmund’s, I have tried three different churches, trying to find the one that best suits my so-called schedule: This morning, I tried
”Our Savior” which has an 8:30 mass on Sundays (enabling me to hear my Word Puzzles on PBS (7:40 each Sunday, for about 15 minutes), but found the service too long (with more of the priest’s part being sung: even the consecration of the Host!) and every verse of every hymn being sung. In short, the mass there isn’t: we began a little before 8:30 and were finished at 9:45. I would not object if the homily had been longer, but there is just too much singing, in my opinion. The Cathedral is ideal, but for having to drive about ten miles each way, and not being able to understand one of the priests at all. I’ll probably return to St. Catherine’s because it is so convenient and both priests are excellent. But I will window shop a bit more: I plan to get to St. Dominic’s 9:00 AM mass next week. That was where I used to go with Jack Morgan, and I also played Bridge there on Mondays for eons.
“Even overweight, cats instinctively know the cardinal rule: When fat, arrange yourself in slim poses.”
City Island (Anchor Bay)
The DVD box carried the following assessment of this film: “**** A very funny film!” and a picture of 6 of its cast, including: Andy Garcia (center of first row) Juliana Morgulies and new-to-me, Steven Strait. On the back of the cover is a second blurb and a picture of the entire family seated around a picnic table: “A warmly hilarious movie: Garcia is comic gold!’
What am I missing here?
I’ll tell you what I am missing: the years that make up the difference in what teenagers today deem “Hilarious” (which in my vocabulary is “atrociously disgusting”) and what I call “mildly amusing’ and they---well, what terms do they use to describe what I smile wistfully at? “Corny?” “Tacky?” “Dumb?” No, I am sure they would find all of these adjectives (my GOD! What in the hell is an ADJECTIVE?”) lacking in the colorful language that makes nonstop use of the F word. And here is one of the positive things I can say about “City Island”: there is not one single (and I listened very carefully, as well as keeping the subtitles on) F word in the entire movie. But it just goes to show you how far films have lowered their standards, so now they throw the act, itself, at us, as casually as they used to show a girl blowing a kiss at her beau.
Having vented my spleen somewhat, I will add that (strange as it may sound) there is a rather interesting told here: but I did not find it funny. Actually, the best thing in the film is not mentioned, nor is she pictured on the cover: beautiful Emily Mortimer walks off with the movie (Garcia is his usual competent self) as the schoolmate of Garcia; in an acting class they are both taking. He tells his wife he is playing poker, rather than admitting to doing something wonderful and worthwhile, and all the while, she assumes he is having an affair with another woman.
But it is the two legitimate children that I objected to: a teen aged son, and a slightly older daughter represent (for me) all the very worse elements that make up such a large percentage to today’s really lost generation. (**)
John Malkovitch is a consummate actor, but he always tends to give me the creeps! I first saw him in Sally Field’s award winning “Places in the Heart”, and was struck with the same uneasy feeling even back then. His career has given us some mighty fine performances, and this is no exception. He portrays a university professor (sounded like English Lit to me, but we are never told why he is talking to his class about English poets so much) and becomes attracted to one of his pupils. He courts her and finally seduces her. He becomes hopelessly smitten with her, and forces himself on her long after she tries to break the relationship off. She finally reports him to the staffers of the school, and he is questioned, admits that all of her charges against him are true and that he is guilty. He refuses to make any excuses or apologies. We next see him in Post Apartheid South Africa, where he has a daughter who is single. He moves in with her, and with the help of an aboriginal male, grows exotic flowers, which make plenty of money for her. Her co-worker leaves overnight, and in his absence a band of looters and rapists break in, lock Malkovitch in a cellar and rape his daughter. They steal his car, and leave the entire place in shambles. Later, the father finds out the co-worker is a friend of the looters. Then, the daughter discovers that she is pregnant, and tells her father she intends to have the child! He is thunderstruck, tries to reason with her, and then and prepares to return to Australia. He does so, but stays only a short while, then returns to the disaster that is their life.
The plot is very complex, and I cannot begin to give you any clearer idea of the situations. I found it too compelling to turn off, so I just sat and absorbed it-rather like a sponge. (***)
The Long Hot Summer
I mourned poor Smutty Joe most of that day, but when George came home from the junior college, I more or less snapped out of the blahs. We went out in the back yard and I took two or three pictures of him with the little Brownie camera Josephine had given me. There was a tall wooden fence that Daddy had built between our market and another building that we owned. At this time, a Mrs. Jenkins, who had a restaurant there, rented it. George and I had eaten some of her hamburgers when we had ridden with Daddy to Ellisville from Richton, and had to waste the entire day until Mrs, Bishop’s Varsity Theater opened for its 4:00 matinee.
There was, still at this time, a lovely apple tree that Josephine is supposed to have planted. This seems unlikely, as she never could stand the taste of apples. It made a lovely backdrop for my close-ups of my brother, and ultimately created a picture of him with what looked just like gray hair (it was at the height of its blackness).
A few days after we moved in, a very pretty young girl rang the doorbell, and when I went to answer it, she said, “Hi, I’m Carolyn Steinwinder from across the street.”
“I’m Francis,” I said shyly.
“Is George at home?”
“He just came in. Come in and I’ll go and get him.”
George seldom took kindly to unannounced visitors, and when I told him the girl wanted to see him, he demanded, “What does she want to see me about?” He was sprawled out on the bedspread.
“How would I know?” I gave him question for question. I watched him. He was obviously not interested in finding the answer to his own question, so I said, “She’s mighty pretty.”
He made a clicking noise with his tongue.
“Well—are you coming or not?”
He did not answer, but slowly rose from the bed and began walking even more slowly towards the hallway. I trailed along behind him. I was very curious to find out what Carolyn wanted with him. She looked about my own age- maybe a year older.
I had ushered her into the living room, and she was seated on the couch. She stood up as he entered the room. “George, Mother and I have certainly enjoyed hearing you playing the piano!”
He smiled broadly. “Why, thank you! Carolyn, is it?”
“Oh, I forgot to give you my name. Anyway, we were wondering if you might take me on as a student.”
If he were as surprised as I was, he certainly did not show it. You’d have thought he had been teaching all of his life.
“Well, they keep me mighty busy with school work and my practicing,” he paused as if trying to make a momentous decision. For him. I imagine, it was just that.
I glanced at Carolyn. My Lord, she was beautiful. Much prettier than anyone I had ever seen except in the movies.
“Of course, Mother said to ask you how much you would charge for a half hour lesson.”
“Actually, you would be my very first student,” I was shocked at his admitting this. “Could you play something to let me see how where we would need to start?”
She frowned. She was even pretty doing that!
“I didn’t take last year. Before that I had taken four years from Mrs. Gridley, in Laurel, I’m pretty rusty, but I could sight read something for you.”
I could tell by the way he was glaring at me, that it was time for me to excuse myself. “See you later, Carolyn,” I said, half-heartedly, already halfway out the door.
My brain began working on the price I felt George should ask for a half hour lesson. In Richton, Miss Alline Hill charged three dollars a month for two 30-minute lessons a week, but because there were two of us from the same family, she charged Daddy only four dollars. This came to a dollar a week for the two of us, only a quarter, when all was said and done. Twenty-five cents per lesson seemed exorbitant for someone who had never given a piano lesson in his life. So, what did I feel he could ask, with a good clear conscience? Daddy promised Helen a dollar a week for working all day in the market, six days out of the week. But he figured with the room and board, he was being more than generous.
My busy little mind simply had no experience with money matters, other than the fact that each Sunday (for almost as long as I could remember) Daddy gave me a quarter. He had cut a slot in one end of a cigar box, which he nailed to the inside of one of our closet doors. As soon as I got the coin, I made a beeline for that “Bank” and deposited it. There was no question of my spending it. What could I possible need that we did not sell in our market? Well, maybe clothes- but I didn’t have to worry about those: Mama made sure I was decently (if not very stylishly) clad.
My musings were interrupted by the sounds of someone (Carolyn?) playing Beethoven’s “Menuet, in G”. I smiled smugly. This had been one of my solos when I gave me first recital last year. My smugness turned to icy jealousy as she attacked the middle section (which I never came to terns with) and seemed to be playing it effortlessly! When the piece was completed, I could hear George’s voice, sounding downright excited as he was probably telling her how great she was. I determined, then and there, to work harder on my own practicing.
The next day, I saw Carolyn sitting on Mrs. Collins’ front porch. I had no idea that she lived so near our house, even though she had said that she lived across the street. I pulled the curtains in the living room back a little farther to have a fuller view of her. It looked like she was reading a book, and I had to subdue the greatest urge to walk over to ask her what sort of books she enjoyed. But I didn’t dare. An older woman came out and sat in the other rocking chair on the porch. I guessed that must be her mother.
After watching them a few minutes more, I decided to go over on the pretense of visiting “Aunt Rhea”, which is what everyone called their Landlady. She and I had renewed our acquaintance on one of my several trips to Ellisville in the past year and a half as Daddy got everything ready for our return.
“Bye, Mama,” I called out as I opened the front screen door.
“Where you goin’?” She asked, without much interest.
“Just across the street to visit Aunt Rhea.”
This was a habit I had formed while still a little boy. Mama liked to know were we all were, at any given time. Not all of my siblings took kindly to this, but I never had the slightest objection, because I knew I would have wanted to know where I was if I were she.
It was a glorious spring afternoon, and as I stepped off the blacktop of the street, and began walking on the soft green grass that made no sound as I walked upon it, Carolyn called out, “Come on in, Francis, and meet my mother.”
This was too easy. I had my speech all planned, about how I was coming to see Mrs. Collins. Now, I was suddenly speechless.
“Hello, Francis. Carolyn is so glad to have you and George so close.”
I loved Maggie Steinwinder immediately! She was so cute and petite. When I got to know her better, I realized that she loved her two children just as ferociously as Mama did all of hers. There was a son, Jack, who was even then away from home, in the Navy. Mr. Steinwinder was also away. I never got to know him very well, but he, too, seemed very nice.
Carolyn had risen and was clearing some newspapers from the porch swing. “Would you rather sit in a rocking chair, or the swing?”
“It doesn’t really matter.” Why did I feel tongue-tied each time I tried to talk to her?
“Well, then you take the swing. I get sort of dizzy when I sit in it.” She had the book she had been reading in her hand, and I was craning my neck trying to make out what sort of book it was.
She saw what I was trying to do, and turned the book so I would be able to see it.
“Oh! Mignon G. Eberhart is one of my favorite authors!” I was so glad that I was familiar with the author whose book she was reading. “Is that a mystery, too?”
“Yeah, and it’s a good one, too!”
The Chiffon Scarf became my favorite novel for the next several days, as I waited for her to finish reading it, and then borrowed her book to read for myself.
At this time, Mama would allow me to buy Triangle books, which were hard covered works of respectable authors, and sold for fifty cents at Woolworth and Kress. I began making a collection of these books, and Daddy me a really pretty bookcase (which he painted Baby blue) and had room enough to house quite a collection.
Aunt Rhea, hearing all the conversation that she was missing, opened the screen door to her half of the house, and said, “Oh, you don’t have to get up.”
I knew that Mama would not like it if I sat while Mrs. Collins stood.
Carolyn jumped up and went inside to get another chair.
I know that most teenaged boys would have felt uncomfortable in my situation, but having grown up with four sisters, I did not find it at all intimidating.
As I look back on that wonderful summer, I am filled with warmth and happiness. I never had any close male friends after I left Richton, and often, my close friendships with much older women, were far more gratifying than most other friendships. Carolyn was certainly more an adult than I had first thought; although she was only one grade ahead of me in school. I knew instinctively that she considered me a child, even though she never called me that,
Her piano lessons with George turned out wonderfully for both of them, She continued to take from him, choosing not to take at the Junior College as he and I both did. When he graduated the next year, he had to go immediately into the Army, so Carolyn was forced to take from Miss Bernice Gay, who was one of the most thorough teachers I would ever have.
(To be continued)