Wednesday, January 29, 2020

We Owe our Existence to H.M.S. Pinafore

My mom often told us about how she met my father.  They were both students at Mission High School in San Francisco.  He was Class of 1949, she was Class of '50.  Mission High had about 1,000 students, even back then, so it wasn't a given that they'd ever meet.

I guess I owe my existence to H.M.S. Pinafore, and the Mission High drama department, because that is where they met, in 1949.  Mom was playing the character of "Little Buttercup", and my father was "Dick Deadeye".  Good casting.  

Both parents also performed in other musical productions at Mission High.  For example, my father played one of the Guards in "The Mikado".

Mom wasn't in that one, and she didn't perform with Louis Hagler in another play, so she may never had met our father but not for "Pinafore", as Lou was due to graduate soon after that production.  

Mom did get a nice mention in the S.F. Examiner about her role as "Little Buttercup".

This is one of those "what if?" moments.  Mom could have married this guy, George somebody(?) who she said was "very nice, a sweet boy, but dull as dishwater."  That's mom and George at the Polo Field in S.F., 1948.    And couldn't the photographer have left his shoes out of that shot?!?!? 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Moving Experience

When we moved to our present house in 2002, I vowed that I would never move again.  This was the first home I had ever owned, and moving was so exhausting, that I just didn't think I could go through that, again.

Added to this was that I love our little home.  Two bathrooms, my own office, and other extras.  Mike has a walk-in closet and en suite in the master bath. Open concept kitchen and living room area.  Great neighbors, short hike up our hill to view Mavericks, beautiful scenery and the harbor nearby. 
The HMB airport is our neighbor - I spent a lot of time at that airport as a child.  The location is not too far from our gallery, a 15- minute drive on a good day. 

Our home is a mobile home, in what used to be called  a "trailer park".  The houses today are by and large called "manufactured homes". To those of us who live here, they are real homes.  We have maintained the property since we bought the house. New washer, screen door, energy-saving refrigerator and overhead lights, paint, redwood fencing, and garbage disposal.  In 2015, we had the house repainted white, with turquoise trim.  

Recently, to make the house compliant with park regulations, we had our front porch stairs replaced, including handrails and awning supports, for almost $9,000.!  Features listed of our house include:

  • 2 Bedrooms, located at opposite ends of the home
  • Walk-in closet (master bedroom)
  • Built-in book case (Master Bedroom)
  • 2 full bathrooms, located at opposite ends of the home
  • En suite  (master bath)
  • Generous open-concept kitchen-living room area
  • Central heating in all rooms
  • Washer and dryer
  • Screen Door in rear of house
  • 14.8 Cu ft. Energy-Saver Frigidare refrigerator
  • Garbage Disposal
  • Energy-Saving light fixtures (kitchen and bedrooms).
  • Gas stove & oven (especially great during electrical outages)
  • Dishwasher (only used twice in 18 years)
  • 40-gallon hot water heater
  • Redwood fence
  • Generous rear deck
  • Reinforced fire-resistant front stairway hand rails, and supports

  • We pay a monthly lot rental fee of around $1200. per month;  we paid off our home when we bought it), which has never been an issue, as long as we are working.  But we now wish to retire, and if we do that, we will no longer be able to live here. 

    My husband Mike had an idea last year, which coincided with a significant uptick in our workload, due to the only other custom picture framer closing shop.  We were both exhausted every night after work, and at times overwhelmed. We are in our late 60s, and only make so much in Social Security payments -  certainly not enough to pay the lot rental here if we retired. What to do? 

    Mike remembered that his mother would be willing a duplex to him, and he thought it would be even better if we moved in before she left us. He approached her with that idea, and she agreed.  That way, we would pay no rent (after helping pay off the property), and could afford any other expenses with our Social Security income. Consider this:  property values have gone through the roof (so to speak), in the Bay Area. When we purchased our home in 2002, we paid $79,000, fully expecting it to depreciate in time.  But because the housing market has changed here, our home will be worth close to $200,000 - and more, if we are lucky enough to have a bidding war when we sell.  Crazy! Long story short - we are in the process of moving. 

    Little things I've learned along the way:

     1.  If it doesn't fit, get rid of it.  I had clothes in my closet that I was waiting to lose weight to fit into again.  After 18 years, I have finally realized that was not going to happen - unless I get really sick, and lose a lot of weight - and even if I do get sick, I won't want to wear those clothes again!   I don't have a huge wardrobe as it is - my closet is only half full - so will be easy to re-locate my threads! 

    2. Pace yourself.   Last time we moved, we had to do it in just a few days.  This time, we bought a shed, and have started moving stuff a little at a time.  We are not youngsters in our early 50s anymore. We have to guard our health.  Anything too large will be handled by professional movers. 

    3. Label those boxes! 
    Last move, I distinctly recall looking around for our kitchen implements and other items in hastily-packed boxes without labels. Very frustrating!  Best to label on both top and side of each box.  

    4.  Have friends help out, when they offer!  We have friends with skills and tools that we do not have. Door hangers, window installers, carpet cleaners, carpenters, etc.  We can trade favors - for instance, our friend Bob modified shelves in our new shed, and we are custom-framing a photo for him.  Bob did a wonderful job making the shelves fit in a way that we could not.

    5. If you don't use it, lose it.  Moving is a great opportunity to dump stuff that you will never need.  Anything that you just store and don't use, in reality, is just a waste of precious real estate.  We are downsizing - our new place will be smaller - which makes this rule even more imperative.  Donate to your favorite local thrift store or have a huge yard sale.  We do plan to "yard sale" some things, after moving.  I'm not saying that I have "all" the answers (as if!) but it is good to plan accordingly.  Looking forward to retiring in our new home! 

    Saturday, December 21, 2019

    No cartoon - Joaquin Phoenix in Tour De Force Performance.

    I knew this wouldn't be a "feel good movie" going in, but had read enough of the reviews to be intrigued. Joaquin Phoenix as "Joker" is both sympathetic and revolting. He makes you weep for his character, while also creeping you out, big time!
    Prior to seeing this film, the only character I have seen that comes close to the authenticity of a damaged and dangerous being is Anthony Hopkins' "Hannibal Lecter". But in some ways -  ironically! - Lecter is cartoonish in comparison with Arthur Fleck, whose personal history is riddled with misery and pain.

    There seems very little let-up in cruelty towards Arthur, except for from one of the characters.   It is evident from the beginning of the film that Arthur is emotionally fragile, and mentally off-kilter. He could snap at any time. The build-up to his course of actions follows many incidents of abuse by others. It certainly doesn't help his case that he has an impediment - laughter that he cannot control. This gets him into trouble, at times.
    Arthur's relationship with his mother Penny (played beautifully by Frances Conroy) has an undercurrent of sadness and dysfunction that boils over when Arthur learns that she has kept important information from him.
    Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant in this role, perhaps his best ever.  Arthur/Joker gracefully dances in a few scenes, lost in his own world. In fact, it is possible that some or all of the incidents in this film were not real, but instead the figment of Arthur's imagination. In any event, it was all real to Joker, who reacted accordingly.

    Joaquin Phoenix deserves the Oscar and other awards as Best Actor of 2019 for his performance in"Joker", for sure. Artfully directed by Todd Phillips, the movie sets up for the next Batman movie.    However - I wouldn't advise viewing"Joker" if you are prone to depression.  You need to distance yourself emotionally to some degree, to truly appreciate the performance and messages in this film.

    Friday, December 20, 2019

    See's Candy and Mission Paks for Christmas

    I've been seeing this display since I was a kid - and that's a LONG time ago! It's the SEE's Candy Santa Display in South San Francisco.

    My Auntie Arlene used to work at that See's Candy Store in SSF. Any time we were there, we'd ask our mom if we could visit Auntie, but Mom didn't want to disturb her sister-in-law at work. That was Mom's story, but she also never got us the cakes or sweets at our church bake sales or when the Bread Man rolled around. Maybe she was doing us a favor, not loading our bodies with sugar(which we have more than made up for since then). Auntie Arlene and Uncle George used to send us Mission Pack fruit baskets for Christmas (remember those t.v. commercials? I still remember the song).

    Mom would torture us
    by having us look at that thing until Christmas Day. We kids were hungry/starving most of the time, so food was always a great gift choice. Meanwhile, Auntie, Uncle, and their lucky kids would go off to Hawaii for Christmas. Mahalo, Auntie and Uncle! mele Kalikimaka!

    Sunday, December 15, 2019

    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

    Wouldn't it be great if we could re-write history? Quentin Tarantino does just that, with his latest film.   I should preface this review by admitting that I have only liked a handful of Tarantino movies.  But it appears that he has progressed as a filmmaker, judging by his latest achievement, "Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood".  This film is not only a super-entertaining depiction of 1960s pop culture - it is a loving tribute to those who didn't make it to the 1970s, who should have.

    Tarantino did a lot of research into 1960s culture and history. His story is set in the year 1969.
    That year brought us Woodstock and the Apollo Moon landing, which was historic, magical, and epic. But it was also the year that my 16-year-old sister was killed in a car accident, devastating my family permanently. In 1969, the Beatles performed in their last public performance together, Senator Edward Kennedy's car skidded off a bridge, resulting in the death of his 28-year-old passenger Mary Jo Kopechne. The year ended with the Rolling Stones' disastrous Altamont concert, and the death of Meredith Hunter.

    Oh yes - and then there were the Tate-LaBianca murders. The victims seemed to receive far less press coverage than the Manson family. Even recently, I read Dianne Lake's memoir: "Member of the Family", about her time at the Spahn Ranch, and what led up to the subsequent killings, with way more written about the perpetrators of that ghastly slaughter than about the innocent targets of their murderous depravity. There are many films and books produced about Manson and his band of followers, but almost nothing of significance about their victims.   The affect that those murders had on Hollywood - and even for the rest of us, back then - has reverberated throughout the decades.  The images stay in our minds.  
    History aside, two fictional characters dominate "Once Upon a Time..." with performances by actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt that are definitely Oscar-worthy. Both actors have sunk their teeth into their roles with gusto, a definite treat for viewers. 

    "Don't let the Mexicans see you crying." 
    DiCaprio plays introspective leading man t.v. star Rick Dalton.  You rarely see Dalton without a drink in his hand or a cigarette in his mouth. Regrets are many, as he is reminded that his youth and bankability have passed him by.  There is plenty of scenery-chewing by DiCaprio, who shines as the seasoned pro that he is. 
    Pitt plays the part of Dalton's stuntman Cliff Booth to perfection. Booth is not introspective, except perhaps in one scene where he winds up daydreaming while fixing an antenna on Dalton's roof. Otherwise, he is just a "live and let live" kinda guy - unless he is crossed.  Then, watch out! 

    I have to say that I was very impressed by the casting of Bruce Lee, Steve McQueen, and Cass Elliott.
    The details and authenticity of "Once Upon a Time..." are enough to give those of us who were alive back then the "suspension of disbelief" we need, without our saying too often: "But wait a minute - it wasn't like that."
    The music, fashions, products, technology, transportation, cinema, television actors, shows, commercials, and other signs of 1960s pop culture are authentic enough to pass muster.  He did his homework. Any discrepancies or inaccuracies are minor.  

    Yet in addition to creditable details, we find the blessings of fiction, for this is not a documentary, and not made to be.  There are Tarantino's usual fanciful meanderings into scenes that go slightly off-path. They are great character studies, though. and are fun to watch, which is really the point.

    I'm thinking that this one will be taking home the bulk of the Oscars.  Hollywood especially has needed this one, I think.  

    Thursday, December 5, 2019

    Dog Gone Sad

    I probably should preface this by saying that if you don't want to be sad, don't read this blog, and leave it at that. 

    A friend had recently asked me what my most exciting Christmas gift as a child was.

    That would have been in 1958. My sister, brother and I saw a large box by the tree. We went to the box, and saw a puppy. We were THRILLED. We had never had a pet before. We took him out of the box, and just played with the puppy - who we named "Chauncy" - all day. Had to go to mass, and were impatient to get back home to play with Chauncy. 3 months later, Chauncy was sick - apparently, he had distemper. My parents had bought him at a pet store in SF. He had to be put down, of course.  We were DEVASTATED!

    Our next puppy was 6 years later - half chihuahua, half cocker spaniel. My father named her "Lisbeth Tailears." We had Lisbeth for 3 years. We ADORED her! 
    My sister Susan holding Lisbeth Tailears.

    But we stupid kids were walking her around Pacific Manor one day, and decided to take her off-leash (there were no leash laws then). We were blabbing away, crossing the overpass - that one that they just re-did in Sharp Park. We suddenly noticed that Lisbeth wasn't with us. We looked around, and saw that she was crossing the freeway, below us. She was afraid of heights, I guess. We looked down, saw her look up, and then saw her being hit by a car! We rushed down to where she lay. She was killed instantly. The driver stopped and apologized - he felt horrible. We reassured him it wasn't his fault, that our dog wasn't supposed to be on the road. My brother Arlo and I were just sobbing, almost hysterical. My sister Laurie picked up Lisbeth's body, and I ran to a pay phone to call our mom. Laurie told Arlo and I to stop crying - that Lisbeth was "just a dog".  I remembered Laurie's comment 5 years after that - 1969 - when she was killed in a car accident. More grief. 

    We had other dogs - Laurie's dog Lucy was hit by a car and killed a month after Laurie died. Lucy was LAURIE'S dog, no other, and she grieved, that dog just mourned for my sister (as we all did). 

    Around 1970, my brother had a dog named Nina that had puppies. We were excited about the pups. A couple of days after the pups were born, we looked everywhere for the, and couldn't find them. Our mom told us that they had all died. We were freaked out - a litter of 6 pups all died? Years later, my mom confessed (while drunk) that she had drowned them all in the tub. I guess she was feeling overwhelmed. I can't have pets - I'm bad luck for pets - they all die on me. 

    The second most exciting Christmas gift was the Beatles Rubber Soul album. 

    Tuesday, November 26, 2019

    Annual Renewal

    Recently, I got a renewal notice for my annual contribution to KMUD radio station. This is something that I contribute to, every was one of my brother Arlo's last requests of me.   Arlo passed away on October 5, 2002, at the age of 48, from stomach cancer. 

    Arlo started KMUD radio in the mid-70s, as little hole-in-the-wall station, a dream of his since we were kids, building superheterodyne receivers from scratch, on breadboards (I can still smell the soldering fluid burning on the components), and then listening to XERB radio in Tijuana with Wolfman Jack's scream "XERB" in his gravelly delivery...but I digress. 

    Arlo accomplished quite a lot in his 48 years, in spite of his beginnings, which were rough.  I won't go into details, as they were also my beginnings.  Suffice it to say, he overcame a great deal to realize his goals and his dreams, one of them being a little radio station of his own, which grew into what it is today.  He was instrumental in bringing many music acts into Humboldt County, and organizing events like the Kate Wolf Music Festival (now performed in part on the Arlo Hagler Memorial Stage - yes, my brother has a music stage named after him).
    All of that is only an example of Arlo's contributions.  He was heavily involved in cleaning up the environment.  He worked for the Southern Humboldt Recycling Center, while hosting KMUD's Environment Show, with issues ranging from cleaning up our oceans, to forest destruction to be dealt with.  Saving the redwoods was one of his prime concerns, and he was instrumental in helping save the Sinkyone Wilderness from clear-cutting and development.  The the concept of clean energy was also a favorite topic.  It was on KMUD radio that Julia Butterfly's story first broke, the "girl in the tree" - who, for 738 days, lived in the canopy of an ancient redwood tree. She was called Luna, and wanted to help make the world aware of the plight of ancient forests.  She and Arlo were friends (I think he had a serious crush on her), and they shared a common mission.   So, there was more than entertainment in his programming - updates on community news, activities, environmental concerns and how his listeners could help, etc.   With his soothing deep voice, he kept his listeners tuned in.  My mom loved the show, never missed one. 

    Arlo was the community's electrician, board certified, with his website "Watts Happening" to advertise his business (Arlo's Music website was called "Random Axxes", long before the television show "Random Axxes" came about).  The logo on his website was a dinosaur animated gif, with the line:"Dinosaurs Welcome". 

    He was excited about the possibilities of the internet, especially for artists.  It was the most positive take on what was considered the new frontier, when he wrote:

    "This site is a companion to my radio program, RANDOM AXXES, aired weekly on our local community radio station, KMUD. The idea behind this web site is a simple one: to put the listener directly in touch with the artist(s). If there's something you heard on my show, something you like from a band you've never heard of, you can visit this site, find the song list for the show in question, and follow the link to that band's web site, or one of the web sites dedicated to that band (Often a fan site will be better than the 'official' site). Whenever possible, I encourage you, the listener, to buy direct from the artist. An ever-increasing number of musicians are taking to the Web, releasing  albums old and new through their own independent labels, thus bypassing the corporate record companies, commercial hype, and other barriers.  I see this as one of the highest possible uses for the Internet; Grass-Roots Cyberdistribution. Music by, and for, the people. That's the idea. Or maybe it's only Rock And Roll...Arlo Hagler"

     There was music and the station - which didn't pay in money - and then, there was his "day job", as an electrician.   Below:  A screenshot of Arlo's "Watt's Happening" website, which he created himself, leading with a line by Hunter Thompson, "Electricity is neutral. It doesn't want to kill you, but it will if you give it the chance."

    At his memorial, I actually heard one tearful mourner who was going to re-wire her house or repair her appliances, now that Arlo was gone? That memorial was huge, held at Mateel Center in Redway, truly a Celebration of Life that went on for two days, with music, tributes, festivities, along with clouds of the "good stuff" wafting about.
    The memorial actually started out as a benefit for Arlo while he was still alive, to help make expenses - Arlo had no medical insurance, which is part of why he waited so long to see a doctor about his stomach pains.  Always stoic - something we were taught to be - he took Rolaids, hoping the pains would subside. After he died, we found Rolaids and other antacids lying around his home.


    Poster for the benefit, which was to help Arlo pay his medical bills.

    Just a few of the many atendees at Arlo's memorial, Mateel Center.
    Arlo was a performer himself, starting out in grade school, doing a solo of "Blue Moon" in our elementary school auditorium...that took guts!  He was brave, and seemingly unconcerned with the snickering of some of the kids.   Eventually, his voice changed, he took up guitar, and did some performing that actually earned him some money.  Not an egotist, he invited others to participate, and was great at promoting the work of many other artists.  If artists were going to have a performance - music or otherwise - in Humboldt County in the 70s-2000, "Random Axxes" was one of the of ways to announce that show. He also interviewed many musicians and others in the business.

    When Arlo started out, his Garberville studio was barely the size of a broom closet, filled to the max with cassette tapes and records.  I took a pic of him during his show, as we were already anticipating the move to a larger studio in Redway.

    As I look at KMUD's program line-up today, I see many changes from 12 years ago, only recognizing the "JoMama's Blues" slot.  The station has grown.  Arlo would be proud.  The last time I saw him - to say goodbye - he was concerned about the station, among other things.  He had so much left to do, he wasn’t finished, he told me.  Would KMUD survive?  Would his efforts towards improving our environment carry on?

    Something I have never mentioned before, but appreciate as much a anything is Arlo's devotion to his family, in particular to our autistic brother Mark.  When everyone else was too busy or couldn't make it, Arlo visited Mark, took him out to eat, and met with Mark's caretakers.  He checked up on Mark regularly. He was there for my mom, who lived close by, and the rest of our family.  I'm sorry to say that we may have taken that for granted, as we never thought he would leave us.
    My annual donation to KMUD is one of the small ways in which I contribute.  I think Arlo would be very happy that KMUD is thriving.  Arlo's dream lives on in the station that he started, through in the efforts of others who share that dream.