2015 A to Z

Elements of Memoir

Have you ever thought about writing a memoir? And what is memoir anyway? During the 2015 A to Z Challenge I will be answering some of your questions as well as offering some possible ideas you might consider in writing your own memoir story. I'd also like to hear some of your ideas about memoir in the comment section. Let's talk about memoir.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

July 4th Maryville Tennessee

Happy July 4th!

English: The New York City fireworks over the ...
The New York City fireworks over the East Village of New York City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

      It's been two weeks since I left Los Angeles to start out on a prolonged vacation.  Time passes so quickly and I never seem to be getting as much done as I had hoped.   I can use the argument that I'm on vacation, but still there is much to be done while I'm away.

      We had a wonderful trip across the country on our first leg to Houston, Texas.  After getting on the road at 5:30 in the morning of Saturday June 20th, we had smooth sailing throughout the day.   For me a highlight of that first day came about 60 miles before we got to Las Cruces, New Mexico.

        It was about 5:30 PM Mountain Time when I happened to tune into a classical radio station at the moment they started playing the Third Symphony of Camille Saint-Saens which is one of my top three favorite symphonies.  For the next 40 minutes my drive was invigorated by some of the most wonderful music to be found.   This is truly one of the best symphonies ever composed.

       My stay in Houston was very restful as I took many naps throughout the week.  My wife noted that my nighttime sleeping habits had vastly improved.  After that week of personal recharge I was ready for my next adventure--a two day drive by myself to Tennessee.  My wife will be staying in Houston until August 5th.  I'll be on my own visiting my family members while she stays to help her daughter.

       So far I've been in East Tennessee for almost a week.   With my brother and sisters we're still working on settling up my mother's estate.  There's lots of housecleaning and touch-up repairs to get her house ready to put on the market.  We all hate to see the property leave the family, but selling it seems to be the most practical solution since none of us wants to live there--or in my case I don't live in this town.

       I'll be here another week and a half or so before I begin wending my way to New Jersey.   There's still plenty to be done in Tennessee and it's not going to all get done while I'm here, but I'll hopefully help make some progress during my stay.  And then there's trying to make it to see some old friends.  Time will be kind to me I can only hope.

        Have a great 4th or whatever day you read this.   May your every day be the best one yet.

        How do you feel about traveling long distances alone?   What music inspires you most when you are on the road?   What did you do for the holidays?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

My Own Personal Newspaper

English: New York, New York. Newsroom of the N...
 New York, New York. Newsroom of the New York Times newspaper. Reporters and rewrite men writing stories, and waiting to be sent out. Rewrite man in background gets the story on the phone from reporter outside. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My Own Personal Newspaper

         I've had this fascination with newspapers since early childhood.  My parents always had newspapers in the house and I liked to look through them.  There were the comic pages of course, and the advertisements, but once I learned how to read a whole new world was opened to me.

        The photojournalism was what often attracted my attention.  Some dramatic image would arouse my interest enough for me to read the story.  Then there were all the other curious little stories that were short, but filled with enough information to get my young brain working to figure out the rest of the details.

         Then, starting in fourth grade, current events became a standard assignment on Monday mornings.  We'd be required to clip an article to present to the class.  The presentation part would make me nervous, but I loved searching out the strangest stories I could find.  There was often duplication of stories among the other students, but rarely did anyone bring in the same story as I brought.  I didn't care much for major world events or politics, but I relished finding anything that was kind of "out there"

        Sometimes for fun I would put together my own newspaper.    Once, inspired by the animated television show The Flintstones I created my own version of a prehistoric caveman era newspaper.  The artwork was all drawn in colored pencils--yes, this was an advanced newspaper all in color!  On another occasion my newspaper edition was a facsimile of what my vision of the newspaper of the future might look like.   Maybe my thinking wasn't too prescient in that the edition was still on paper rather than some electronic type media, but it was easier to use paper in order to write the stories and draw out the illustrations.

          In a way, my discovery of the medium of blogging is like being able to have my own publication.    Much like a newspaper or magazine I can present stories and add images.  I'm both reporter and editor.   The control of managing my own blog allows me a far greater creativity than composing a publication by hand.   The best part is that the potential of actual readership is far greater than those single copy "newspaper" editions that I would pass around to my friends and family to read.

        Blogging has opened a fantastic new world of possibilities to all of us who have longed to see our words on published pages and to have readers who actually let us know they've read what we've written.  And even if the readers aren't there, the digital evidence is there to be potentially found by readers someday in the future.

          Of course, I'd much rather be published in an actual printed edition of some mass produced and distributed newspaper or magazine.  That would be the greatest thrill of all.  For now though the blogging will have to do.    Actually it's not all that bad of a way to be published.  And it is practice for that future publication position that I long to one day have.

           Did you ever create your own homemade newspapers or magazines when you were a child?   Did you work on a school publication?    Do you treat blogging as your own personal publication?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Messages from the Past

       Recently a fellow who was my best friend back in junior high school sent me a newspaper clipping of a story about my family that  I had sent him when I was in high school.  He had lived in Indiana at the time and I had moved to East Tennessee.   We kept in touch for a few years corresponding on into our college years.  Then after a while we lost touch.

        I'd been aware that he had moved to Arkansas and had gotten married, but I knew little else about what he was doing until we reconnected about ten years ago.  After that point of reconnection we once again began calling and emailing each other.

         He told me that he was looking through some of his old scrapbooks and photo albums and happened upon the newspaper clipping.    Since that story appeared in the paper nearly 50 years ago he thought that I might not have a copy.   He made a copy for himself and then sent me the original.  Actually I still do have an original copy in my own scrapbook, but it was interesting to receive the copy I had sent to him.   The copy he sent contained messages from the past.

        When I say "messages from the past" I don't mean the story itself, but the things I had written on the back of the article.  Besides humorous comments, on the back of the article I wrote commentaries about the photo, my current interests, and questions about what he was doing.   It was almost as though I had written a short letter on the back of the article.  I now don't recall having done that, but it was common for me to do such things back then.

         Having that annotated copy of the article has provided me insight of what I thought and felt at the time.   I've found other similarly marked items such as school papers, notebook entries, cards, and so on that were almost like messages to my present self from my past self.   It's interesting to come across items like these especially since I never kept anything like a diary.  In my mother's keepsakes I found other items that were from me to her and now they were back in my hands.   It was a blessing that she had kept these items over the years.

My copy of the article with picture

         Have you received anything back from somebody to whom you had originally given it?   Do you have a tendency to write off the wall messages in odd places?   Where have you found a message from the past that you had written?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Radio Havana Is on the Air

The RCA Strato World Shortwave radio that I got for Christmas in 1967 and sold in 2010.
This is the actual photo I used when advertising it on Craigslist.

      It was Christmas of 1967 when I received an RCA Strato World Solid State 6 Band Radio.   I was in high school at the time.  For some time I had wanted a short wave radio.  I had first seen one in about 1962 at one one of my friend's house when we were living in San Diego.  To be able to pick up radio stations from around the world intrigued me.  By the time I received mine as a Christmas gift the transistor models had apparently gone down in price enough to where my parents felt like they could buy me one.

      As I began to explore the capabilities of what exactly my radio could do, I soon became somewhat disappointed that everything that was mentioned in the owner's manual was not that easy to find.  For one thing I never was able to find police or emergency bands.  On the long wave band I did find the weather reporting from the airport, which was initially interesting, but something that quickly became a bore to which to listen.  There were various "stations" emitting weird pulsating sounds and other unidentifiable noises as well as other stations with jabber that didn't make much sense to me.

       The short wave bands had a bit more content but it was not long before I discovered that the stations from around the world broadcast for only short periods of an hour or so at regular broadcasting times throughout the day.  Fortunately the radio came with a station guide that told what stations and times the broadcasts in English would occur.  

         Mostly I would just scan the bands to find random broadcasts.   One of the most interesting to me was the regular evening broadcast from Havana, Cuba.  This station came in more clear than most, but of course they were closer to where I was.  Every evening the English broadcast would come on for an hour starting about 8 PM if my memory serves me correctly.  I became a nightly listener.

         The broadcast consisted of a combination of Cuban music and talk.  This was my introduction to a Cuban orchestral style that was similar to some of the music I had heard by band leaders like Desi Arnaz or Xavier Cugat, except more melodic and less "babalou" and fast percussive rhythms.  The sound was heavy on piano, strings, and flute with occasional vocals.  The music was beautiful and I was entranced by it though there was never enough for me.

          The other thing that I found oddly compelling was the duo of broadcasters who delivered the news with a Cuban bias and the propaganda about the success of the Revolutionary state.  The male and female radio hosts would take turns delivering the Cuban spin on what their government wanted the world to hear.  Their voices were mellifluous and reassuring, speaking impeccable English with an peculiar accent unlike any I had heard before.  Somehow they made me think of George Orwell's 1984.

         To listen to the broadcast you'd think that Cuba was heaven on Earth.  I almost wanted to be there experiencing the glory of the revolution and the solidarity of the people.   I'd never heard the word "solidarity" before that time, but it was a word they used regularly every night.  There was something about the way they said "solidarity" that made Cuba sound so wonderful.

          I knew it was propaganda, but it was fun to listen to and even educational to some extent.  Much of what they said was based on truth though maybe somewhat exaggerated.  If only they had talked a little less and played more of that exquisite Cuban music, they might have had me convinced that Cuban was indeed heaven on Earth.

           Have you ever listened to short-wave radio?   If so, did you have any favorite broadcasts to listen to?    Do you think you might be taking a Cuban vacation in the future now that relations are being normalized?
Be sure to visit my Battle of the Bands post at Tossing It Out on Monday June 15th!

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Arlee's A to Z Road Trip

 Coming Soon to a Town Near You!

       I just might be near you this summer and I'm going to have some time on my hands at certain points.  What a great opportunity to meet up with some of my blogging friends!   While many of us are taking the virtual Road Trip through the A to Z Challenge list, I'll actually be out on the roads of America.

       My tentative route is shown below on the map and some planned destinations with approximate dates when I'll be in those areas.  It's short notice I know, but maybe some of you can figure a way to meet up.  Ideally we could set up some group meetings at coffee shops, libraries, or other similar types of places.  Maybe you'd like to even host something at your own home.

       Since I'll be on the road I'd have to leave it up to you to set up meeting arrangements  Just let me know so we can confirm everything first.   Also, if you'd be interested in having me meet with your writing group or some other type of group I'd be willing to consider that as well.  I'd be delighted to offer a presentation on "Blogging for Author Platform" (a presentation which can easily be adapted for other purposes besides writing) or "Why You Should Consider Blogging from A to Z in April."   I can also adapt a program especially to suit your needs.  Let me know if you're interested and if it fits into our mutual schedules we can work something out.

        I'll be plenty busy this summer, but if I can get a chance to meet you I'd like to try to put that into my schedule.   Take a look at my route and schedule and then if you think we can coincide our timing let me know in the comments and we can see what we can come up with.

My Tentative Route

My Approximate Schedule

Houston, TX June 22-28

June 28-July 1 en route to Knoxville, TN (passing through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama--my route is flexible)

July 1 - July 12 Maryville, TN (near Knoxville)

July 12- July 16th traveling to NJ with stops in Charlotte, NC; Danville, VA; Richmond, VA (again my route is flexible)

July 16-August 11 Jersey Shore ( I can travel to points near that area including Philadelphia and NYC)

August 11 -August 16 return to Los Angeles with probable stops in Rapid City, SD and Yellowstone Park, WY.

       Do you see any potential meet-up points?   Will you be going anywhere this summer?   

Saturday, May 30, 2015

This Music Magic Moment

Trans-Canada Highway at dawn in Chilliwack, BC.
Trans-Canada Highway at dawn in Chilliwack, BC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

        In my most recent post at Tossing It Out I discussed the topic of why we prefer certain songs and particular genres of music.  I have often discussed music on all of my blogs as music is a topic that is very dear to me.  Today at Wrote By Rote I will be looking at one particular magic moment of my music history.

        In July of 1982 the theater company that I then managed was in the middle of a ten month tour with the stage production of The Magic of Cinderella.  This would be my fourth tour with the company and the second run of the Cinderella show   By mid-summer we were in the western United States and had presently begun a three week tour of the western Canadian provinces.

        Prior to my accepting a job with The World of Fantasy Players I had worked a couple seasons with a touring magic show.  During that stint I developed a keen interest in stage magic and illusions. The theater stage production was of a similar vein as it incorporated stage illusions and magic tricks into the Cinderella story setting.  In essence we were a magic musical stage show with a story.  The production included song and dance numbers and was primarily geared toward family audiences or, more specifically, children.   The nature of the show being as it was kept me with a continued interest in anything related to theatrical magic.

        Our first date after having crossed the border into Canada was Lethbridge, Alberta.   There were two shows scheduled in Lethbridge after which we were making a jump to Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan which was about 350 miles away.   After packing up the show we set out for the next town at about 9:45 PM which meant we would be at our motel no later than 3 AM.   This was not too unusual though we typically tried to avoid such jumps at night.   However since we had another two show engagement the following day, the jump was preferred over rising early to make the trip.   We would be able to sleep in the following morning which was a schedule more suited to show folk such as us.

         The night was warm and pleasant   The Trans-Canada Highway was not particularly well traveled this late at night so the trip was easy.   On this night I decided to listen to the radio rather than cassette tapes as we usually did.  Reception was good in these parts.   I always liked to listen to the Canadian radio stations as they often played some good music.   This night was no exception.

           Sometime around midnight there were flashes of lightning on the eastern horizon that we were headed toward.   It was possibly heat lightning since rain had not been expected.  The dark skies above us were cloudless.

          As I drove and watched the lightning flashes ahead of me, a song that I had never heard before came on the radio.  It was a very catchy bouncy tune, pleasant to listen to.  The singer had a familiar sound, but I couldn't identify who the group was.  My ears perked when the chorus began.

          "Abra-abra-cadabra, I wanna reach out and grab ya"

         My head was bobbing and I was getting into the song. Magic!  I wondered how this song might be incorporated into a magic routine.   What a great sound.  After the song ended the announcer identified the song as the Steve Miller Band.    I was not an exceptionally big fan of this group, but now I had a reason to like them a bit better than I had before.

        That song is not high on my list of favorites, but it is a song I like a great deal.  Now whenever I hear Steve Miller Band's "Abracadabra" I remember that magical music moment driving down the Trans-Canada Highway in July of 1982.   What a great time it was.

          Is there a special magical music moment that you can recall in your own life?   Did you listen to much pop radio in your younger days?    Have you traveled the Trans-Canada Highway?

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Betty Rose and Minnie (Part Two)

         This is the second part of a story that I began in my previous post.  If you missed part one then you might want to go back to read that before continuing on with today's post.   This story about cruelty and bullying was inspired by a post that originally appeared at Robin's Your Daily Dose blog.

          While Betty Rose was generally considered to be the ugliest girl in school, Minnie might have been the fattest.  The name Minnie was actually her birth name rather than some descriptive moniker bestowed upon her by other classmates as was the case of one of the bigger boys who had been known as "Tiny" for as long as anyone could remember.  Tiny wasn't so much fat as he was really big and he good-naturedly accepted this given name as his mark of distinction that set him apart from the other boys.

          Minnie also seemed pleased with her name and appeared to carry her sizable frame with a sense of pride.  She had a pleasant demeanor with a continually cheerful countenance.   Some might have said she had  a "pretty face" though it was decidedly a very round face tinged with a rosy hue in cheeks that looked as though they could have been storing food for later in the day.

          Perhaps it was Minnie's obesity that attracted the small cadre of homely girls who gathered around her.  They might have been long time friends from grade school or maybe the neighborhood where they lived.  Rumor had it that they all came from the Five Points area at the bottom of the hill where the school was located.   I knew where the intersection known as Five Points was, but I was always somewhat unclear as to what exactly comprised the Five Points neighborhood.  To my understanding Five Points was one of the "bad neighborhoods" like Parham Hill or Home Avenue.  Those were the places were the lower class folks lived--the tougher rougher kids who were of low reputation and were undoubtedly headed for bad futures.

         At least that's what some people said.  I didn't know for sure where any of those girls came from or what kind of families they had.  For that matter I didn't know anything about any of them including most of their names.  And now after so many years the only names I remember are Minnie and Betty Rose.

        Each morning as I bided my time with my group of acquaintances, I would see that group of female outcasts on the opposite side of the auditorium on the front row near the stage gathered as though plotting their revenge on the mean students.  Or maybe they were just gossiping, commiserating, or dreaming about a better life away from the school society that had seemed to be rejecting them.  On the whole they didn't appear to be too displeased about their lives or their situations.  More than likely I was reading my own interpretations based on what I imagined about those girls.

          Sometimes, drawing the attention of everyone in the auditorium, Minnie would burst out into a fit of gleeful laughter evoking titters from the assemblage around her.  I almost envied them because they seemed so happy.   Happy about something.  Or amused.   Maybe they were laughing at the rest of us.  None of us knew because none of us associated with those girls.

           In fact, once the school day started I don't recall ever seeing Minnie for the remainder of the day.  Sometimes I might see Betty Rose passing alone through the hallways, ignoring the mean comments from the boys she passed.  She was like a silent specter disappearing into the crowds between classes.   In the mornings she seemed to be a part of a group, but the rest of the day she appeared to be on her own without a friend anywhere.

         Those girls were all in grades below me so that might have been one reason I never encountered any of them during the course of the school day.  Then again, maybe they passed or were there in plain sight and I didn't see them.  After all these were not the in-crowd girls or even the girls that any of us might want to get to know.   I would have never said anything mean to any of them, but there were the students that didn't think twice about hurling insults or making what they thought were funny remarks to show off in front of the other students.  For my part, Betty Rose, Minnie, and all of their circle of friends were the morning crew who for the rest of the day were people I tried not to think about.

         After I graduated, at the end of the following year,  my sister, who was in the grade below me--the same one as Betty Rose and Minnie--brought home the graduation edition of the school paper.   The tradition for this edition was for the departing seniors to publish their "wills" to the incoming seniors of the year to come.  Each graduating senior would will some funny item, give some words of advice, or have some bit of wisdom to offer to the those who would be the next crop of seniors.

            As I perused those words of the graduating class members I came to what Betty Rose had to say.   After so many years I cannot recall her exact words, but she said something to this effect:
"My wish is for all students to have consideration for each other and not to say hurtful things."
I'm pretty sure she worded it more eloquently, but whatever her words were, my heart stopped for a moment and tears came to my eyes.

         How much meanness had she patiently had to endure in her years of high school?   What kind of life had she faced?   I thought of Minnie and her cheerfulness on the outside.  What kind of pain had she felt?   Those other girls who I now don't remember.   They were all part of the club of exiles, rejected by peers, but clinging together in whatever it was they had in common.  What had happened to all of them?

         Some forty years later I got a copy of a school alumni directory. This is one of those directories where the compilers make an attempt to contact every alumnus of the school to collect data about their spouse, number of kids, occupation, and so on.  Having lost touch after so many years I was curious about those with whom I had attended high school.   I guess a good many others were equally curious.

          After I received my directory in the mail, I spent a good bit of time looking up those folks from my past to see where they were now and how their lives compared to mine.  When I came to Minnie's name there was no indication that she had ever been married or had any children.  She still lived in the area and for occupation the listing indicated that she was a care provider for the elderly.

          Betty Rose was not listed in the main part of the directory.   Looking in the index where all students were listed by graduation year I found Betty Rose's name listed.  She was among those few designated as "Address Unconfirmed".   This meant that she had either not filled out the information request that had been sent to her or she had never received one.

          Another pang of sadness welled within me.   Had high school been so painful for her that she had tried to run away or forget it after so many years?   What had happened to her after graduation and had the experience of high school scarred her in later life?   I suppose I'll never know.   I don't know if anyone else cares whether they know or not.    Betty Rose might even prefer that no one ever knows what happened to her.   I hope things turned out well for her.

         Do you remember any of the outcast students in your school?   Do you know what happened to any of those students?    Did you ever befriend any students who were treated poorly by others?