Friday, December 30, 2005


If you watch Disney's Dumbo from the beginning, you find that the cute little flying elephant's name is actually, Jumbo, Jr.  When he is born, his mother proudly shows him off to the other elephants and introduces him by name.  But suddenly, baby sneezes and his huge abnormal ears flop out into plain view. The elephants react in horror and one matriarch sneers, "Jumbo, Jr.? His name should be Dumbo."  And that horrid nick-name stuck.

But Dumbo, as he is called, rises above that epithet to become the star attraction, and saves the failing circus with his flying elephant act.

George, the piano player at our old folks home, dutifully plays Rudolf, the Red Nosed Reindeer at Christmas time because other people like it so, but he hates it.  Why? Because all the other reindeer shun and isolate Rudolf until they need him to guide the sleigh.  Then they accept him, when they need him. George feels that is very unfair.

When I began teaching high school back in 1950, it was the custom of the high school I started my career in, for the senior class to name the incoming sophomore class with a name as demeaning as possible. The object of this offically approved hazing was to inspire the Sophomores to accept the epithet and rise above it, and make it something to be proud of.

And guess what.  It worked. The class usually accepted the ridiculous name and carried it proudly through their three years at Polytechnic High in Riverside, CA.  I wonder if that tradition still survives in this more politically correct society. 

During my tenure there, the classes were serially named the Geeks, the Slurps, the Burbots.  The Geeks and the Slurps proudly graduated while I  was there and the Burbots remained to name the next class I know not what gross name.

I am not sure what started me on this memoir, but the message seems to be: by proud of who you are, and not what others try to make of you.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

On Dressing in the Dark and Living Alone

I don't need a night light.  There are street lights outside my window that give me light enough to move about my room at night. But these winter nights are long, and the street lights are on a clock.  So when the clock tells the street light to go off, it is still dark outside, and there goes my night light. 

Suddently the room is lighted only by the glow from Starbucks, a whole parking lot away.  I imagine that their light is always on, I don't know why.  When I rose this morning it was very dark.  I found my shirt by feel, and pulled it on.  I transferred, pantsless, to the wheel chair, and rolled through the gloom to the computer.

A pilot light shows me where to turn it on, and now my room is lighted by the glow from the monitor.  That light shows a fat man partly bare sitting in a dark room staring at his journal.  And that is okay for who needs pants when he lives alone?

And living alone give you time to contemplate such wierd issues as living semi-nude in the semi-dark. Is that a normal life style?  I hope someone reads this entry a hundred years from now.  What will he think?  "What a strange way to exist, half dressed and half lit."  More likely he will ask "Turn ON the computer? Why was it off? He was disconnected from the web all night? How did they survive back then, disconnected from the world half the time?"

Go ahead, laugh at the image of me, wearing a pull-over shirt only, in my dark room, at my computer.  Or maybe you can't, 'cause you're at your computer too, dressed as you are.  Welcome to my party.  It's come-as-you-are, but, puhleez, don't turn on the light.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Chuck, Style Consultant

Of the twelve dress styles chosen by In Style as being the most beautiful of the year, all but two dragged on the floor. 

Of the two that did  not drag unsanitarily along the ground, only one hung freely, was not Hitched up unnaturally. That was Oscar De La Rento's.

Congratulations, Oscar, you got my vote.  Too bad the style I chose as attractive and practical came in tenth in the voting.

So much for my career as fashion consultant.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Rules is Rules

   Dorothy, age 83, lived with her husband, Louis, 93, in their fifth-wheel mobile home in a trailer park in the California mountains.  That was their world, 40 feet by 8 feet, except for the crank out living room, 12 feet wide.
   For years they had traveled contentedly, following the nice weather, Canada to Mexico. About ten years ago, they parked in the Sierra Nevadas, and stayed put. They settled down.
   Last month Louis fell and broke his hip.  They brought him to Merced where surgeons put pins in his hip, and put him in a nursing home.  Dorothy came with him, with just the clothes on her back.  Her family brought her to the old folks home where I live and moved her in, as is, come as you are.
   She misses Louis terribly, but can call when she wishes and can visit him when she can arrange transportation.  She anticipates moving him here with her as soon as possible.
   Without her permission, her grandchildren moved into the mobil home, and she feels pretty upset about that.  She is removed from her husband, plunked down into an institution, and her home is usurped.
   She is barely used to our routines here, has little time to consider the rules and routines. She is barely aware that there are assigned places in the dining room.
  Then this morning she had a dream that her husband had died.  She was scared and called him right away.  He said he was all right, but has pneumonia.  She came to breakfast pretty well shook up.
   I could see she was distraught, and I know she likes hugs so I said, "I need a hug."  We hugged.
   Her assigned table was empty, the residents having gone already.  I asked if she wanted to join me in Jim's empty chair.  He never comes to breakfast, and besides is gone to be with family for holidays.  She started to join me.
   Then the waitress came and said, "Oh, no, I have to seat her in her own seat. I'd be in trouble otherwise."  She led Dorothy, upset and distraught, to her empty table.
   Rules is rules.
   Well, not to me.  I rolled over and joined Dorothy.  They brought her breakfast, but she did not eat.  She was content just having a friend to talk to.  We  talked for some time, and finally she took a bite or two out of duty... being diabetic, she needs regular meals. She was certainly not feeling hungry.
   Made me wonder... are rules more important than compassion? 

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Dream

Merry Christmas...
More about dreams... My Christmas Eve dream. 
The influences of my daily experiences impinged themselves into my dream. Here is what I dreamed, and what probably made me dream it.
I went to a musical conference.
(I had spent the afternoon at my keyboard with new musical book which was gift from family, and then spent Christmas Eve with George, our piano playing volunteer at the old folks home.)

There was a scheduling mix-up at the conference and all the residential sleeping arrangements were canceled and we had to go nearby town for sleeping.
(I have been seriously irritated by the consistent mix-ups this season by our activity director who had made arrangements forgotten them so that artists appear unannounced, double booked, neglected the artists who do appear, and delayed an honorarium check,)
The nearby town had no accommodations and we had to stay in a bunk house with planks to sleep on.
(There have been several television shows in last two days about the nativity story and there being "no room at the inn".)
I didn't have enough cash to pay the exorbitant twenty dollar charge we each had to pay to stay at this overcrowded ill-equipped bunk house. I paid by credit card, first having trouble finding one, and then having to pay two dollars extra for using it.
(A normal concern of mine: will I have enough cash with me to cover expenses. )
Then I had trouble sleeping on the planks that made up the bunks.
(At this point, my dream merged with real life and I was having trouble getting comfortable in my own bed.)
I resolved the whole issue by waking up and writing this.
...and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Weekend Assignment - Tell about a Memorable Christmas

Christmas 1944, Germany

On Christmas eve, 1944, our squad walked single file, under the cover of darkness, being careful not to step off the path through the snow, forward to a captured pill box on the Siegfried Line in Germany.  Actually the pill box faced France, toward the rear, so we went around the rear, knocked on the steel door and we let in by the squad on duty. 

We posted look outs, and settled into the concrete interior, lit by candles. When the doors were opened we had to cover the candles so no light shone. The concrete interior was warmed by our bodies and a small stove burning charcoal bricks.  The squad we relieved then left, and followed the trail back to the French farm house from which we had come.

For the rest of the night and the next day Christmas, we took turns standing lookout in the snow, facing East, watching and listening, and reporting by telephone anything that indicated enemy activity. I do not remember any, but I remember reporting several "buzz bombs", V1 flying bombs. We gave the directions from which they had come, so that supposedly intelligence could follow the trail back and determine their source.

Nothing happened on that watch, but later a sniper caught one our lookouts unaware and a bullet creased his scalp.  He sat down kerplunk, and when the medics were treating him, he said in amazement, "The bastards are using live ammunition." Training at Camp Kilmer with blanks was over. Reality had set in.

On Christmas night, another squad moved forward and knocked on our door, and we gladly let them in, and prepared to move out. We took the same narrow path back to the farm house where the company was housed.

And there, we had Christmas dinner.  With trimmings. I remember enjoying a turkey leg, drumstick. How the Army managed to fix a Christmas dinner with roast turkey, and mashed potatoes and gravy, so far from home I cannot imagine, but they did. Christmas dinner in a mess kit, and coffee from a canteen cup, is unusual, but welcome. If the mashed potatoes were dehydrated potatoes, at least the turkey was real, and reminded us of home.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

My Brush with Greatness -- Big Ape

King Kong comes out this month.  That is King Kong number three.  The first King Kong was in 1933.

I lived next door to the family of Willis O'Brien, creator of the big ape movie.  O'Brien's ex-wife and two kids lived there.  The kids were teen-agers, Willis (Jr) and Bill.  Bill was blind from an early age.  My grand father and Bill used to play chess.  Bill would bring his special chess board with raised squares and peg holes, and his special chess men, with pegs that fit into holes to hold the men upright.  The white men had tops ground down at an angle so you could tell the white men from the black men by touch.  Bill and grandfather would play, and Bill would make his moves by touching the pieces gently and figuring the moves in his head.  I think that is brilliant.

   Willis, called "Weeks", was considered a juvenile dilinquent by his family, but his escapades seem rather more capricious than violent.  He went swimming in the Hollywood reservoir. Horrors, what a crime, in 1933.

   Anyway O'Brien produced King Kong while his family was living next door.  He was already known for an animated feature called "The Lost World", made with miniatures, which were painstakingly photographed one frame at a time. We knew that there was one full sized Kong head, one foot, and one hand.  All the rest of Kong was miniature. And I got to see and hold, a miniature Fay Wray, smaller than a present day Barbie. 

   Miniature Fay Wray was photographed in miniature Kong's hand, and then the scene shifted to full sized, real Fay Wray in Giant size Kong's hand. Real Fay Wray let out some full sized screams and the illusion was perfect. What you saw was a giant ape holding a terrified woman.  Special effects were not as sophisticated then, but neither were audiences.  The effect was paralyzing.

   I am not sure I was allowed to see such a horror film at age nine.  But I have seen it many times since, and of course, it is my favorite version.


1. Took a tour around the old folks home.  Looks very festive with the red stockings hung by the doors, garlands, and pictures covered to look like presents. It beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

2. AOL can store all of your email forever.  Amazing.  Where?  Where did those billions of transitors needed come from? AND why would you want to?

3. Just viewed three films from Netflix. John Travolta in Lucky Numbers, Craig Ferguson in Saving Grace, and Robert Downey and Reece Witherspoon in The Election.  Gave them all a very good rating... that is four stars out of a possible five. Not worth revieweing here actually.

4. Three more from Netflix to be viewed soon: Tim Robbins in Mission to Mars, Lightning in a Bottle, with B.B. King and Bonnie Rait (Not sure if documentary or concert DVD) and Reindeer Games with Ben Affleck.--sounds seasonal.  Will report unless you comment and tell me to forget it, not worth watching.

P.S. I agree with Deb (comments below), very bloody and violent, but with ingenious plot with twists and turns galore. Grizzley and certainly not boring. Not recommended by me. (Two stars out of five.)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Quirky things About Me -- Fear of Heights

Continuing the "I Dare You" series -- see Tag entry below. Tell five quirky things about you. Numer one: Akrophobia

Yes, I am afraid of heights. Nothing too quirky about that except I loved flying my own airplane.  I am afraid to stand too near a balcony. I fear I will fall or jump off. Even pictures looking straight down from high places as seen on television give me a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach. I could not watch the Sylvester Stallone movie about rock climbing. People hanging from cables high in the air scared me, and I shut it off, took the tape out of the vcr and sent it away, pronto.

I cannot watch Fear Factor when they send contestanta to high places and have them walk wires or collect flags hanging from cargo nets.  Those contestants have safety harnesses, yet I cannot bear the thought of their falling. I am there with them virtually and that is enough to spook me.

But look at this: that is me, at the controls of my airplane, in the air, flying. And I loved it.  I have nearly two thousand hours of time in my log book high in the air.  Highest I ever flew in coupe was over seven thousand feet, and I was comfortable cruising along one thousand feet above the ground.

I dined comfortably in the Space Needle in Seattle. That is pretty high.

So dining in Space and flying my own plane, though I have akrophobia. That is a quirky thing about me.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Things that Make Me Happy -- Flying my Own Airplane

After I learned to fly, I was an aircraft renter for while, and a flying club member. A friend and I decided we should own our own airplane. We used the club plane to take us from airport to airport checking airplanes for sale.

Finally we settled upon an Ercoupe. Barely twenty seven years old, it was, nicely restored and in our price range. Ercoupes are two-place, low winged monoplanes, built in 1946, featuring easy to fly two-control rudder pedalless open cockpits and powerful seventy-five horse power engines.

Neither of us had ever flown one, so AFTER we bought it, we looked around for an instructor, who took us each around the pattern three times on qualification flights. So, game and confident, we flew home, he in our new Ercoupe, and I in the club plane.

   The coupe was fun.  You could slide the canopy down into the fuselage, and fly along open cockpit with your elbow on the window sill, like a sports car in the sky.


   John Travola's first airplane was an Ercoupe. I met him one day  at a rural airport when he was flying with his instructor. We had a hamburger and talked about Ercoupes.      Fred Weick invented the Ercoupe way back in 1937, for people who were willing to study, who would enjoy flying, but needed a reliable, cheap to fly, plane to learn in.  They didn't really get into production until 1946 when they turned out thousands.  Ercoupes were sold in department stores, given away at gas station drawings. Soon they became available as cheap used aircraft.  My partner and I bought our 27 year old airplane for $3400, and flew it for years.


I have been demoted from santa claus to fourth reindeer on the right in the christmas parade. Instead of santa hat, I will wear antlers.  However, there are no small parts, only small actors, so I will do my part magnificently, prancing and dancing with tiny feet upon whatever rooftop I am assigned. 

   I know how my Godfather, Richard Arlen, must have felt late in his career. once the most highly paid actor in Hollywood, having to take roles as the behind-the-lines General, backing up the likes of Gary Cooper and John Wayne on the battlefield.  If he had been asked to wear antlers, he would have worn them proudly. (He must have been proud... never played the "heavy", the villian, until he was Donovan and had his brain stolen. Then his being "bad" was not the character's fault, he had, in fact, someone else's brain.  How's that for acting, a good guy with a bad guys brain?)   

   Who, in fact was the fourth reindeer on the right? Blitzen.  Blitzen means "lightning".  I can do that. Proud reindeer holding his antlers high like lightning rods. Gathering his flying power from the sky.  I wonder if my scooter is up to the task?

Tag According to Hoyle

Official rules for "tag":
1. After supper ask your mother for permission to go out and play.
2. Go find the gang at the vacent lot next to Jimmy's.
3. Join the discussion "How you make a baby"
4. Suddently whallop someone and say, "Tag. You're IT."
5. "IT" is it until he tags someone else, but by now everyone has scattered.
6. When "it" tags someone else, that kid is "it" until he tags someone.
7. The game continues until someone gets tagged too hard and starts to cry.
8. In the unlikely event that no one cries, the game is called when the street lights come on and everyone has to go home.
Variation: Regular tag gets boring in about four minutes, so an alternative is "touch tag" wherein "it" has to hold his hand on the spot where he was tagged. It is great fun to see "it" running around with his hand on his butt where he was tagged, trying to tag someone with his one free hand
(Rules copyright by Hoyle, Inc.)
Official Rules for Blog-tag.
Blog-tag is more like "Truth or Dare" or "I Double Dare You" than kid's tag. In Blog-tag, darers go first. 
1. Think of some kind of list of personal questions that will reveal something about a person. If it is just a little risque, that is all right. That adds to the "fun". Asking the most public place you ever made love is all right.  Asking which hand you wipe with is NOT.
2. Since "Darers go first", list your questions and answer them in your Blog.
3. Now, publicly name a Blogger you know and "tag" him.
4. Send the victim an email saying, "Tag, you're IT".
(Rules of Blog-tag submitted to Hoyle, but ignored.)
Karen has tagged me and sent me two dares. Since she answered the questions in her journal, I am officially challenged. Her challenges
1. List ten things that make you happy.
2. List five "quirky" things about yourself.
You can read her answers in her journal.(Link)
The rules do not say I have to do them all at once. Sounds like enough material here for a whole series of entries. So watch this journal for answers in the future. The first will be the next entry, Called Things that make me happy -- Flying my Own Airplane

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Answering my own questions

Answering my own questions...see entry below

Your lattitude and longitude? 121 W 37.5 N

Where on Earth it is midnight, right now while you are reading this? Easy, it was ten pm here and midnight in, say, Alabama, CST

When the International Space Station was last directly over your head? About midnight in Eastern U.S. Went from Texas northeast over New York.  Right now in South Pacific

Your age in hexadecimals? 51.  I had to make a chart. I am 81

What kangaroos eat mostly? Grass and small plants

How John Scalzi spells the name of his cat "Fluffy"? Ghlaghghee Scalzi exactly.(offical)

Your congressman's name? I am still racking my brain.  I know him, met him, but can't recall his name.  But I know how to look it up.( is Dennis Cardoza.  I got an email from him, so THEN I remembered.)

How your city or state got its name? Merced... Mercy. California was name of literary Utopia, but I don't know in what literature.

Your diivers license number? I have it memorized but I shouldn't print it here. More recent licenses carry the driver's social security number instead.

Your maternal grandmother's maiden name? Robinson

I give myself a pat on the back.  The questions were the most obscure I could think of, and it was all in fun. Thanks for playing along.

Just Wondering


Your lattitude and longitude?

Where on Earth it is midnight, right now while you are reading this?

When the International Space Station was last directly over your head?

Your age in hexadecimals?

What kangaroos eat mostly?

How John Scalzi spells the name of his cat "Fluffy"?

Your congressman's name?

How your city or state got its name?

Your diivers license number?

Your maternal grandmother's maiden name?





Your Favorite Picture from 2005 -- Monday Photo Assignment

My favorite photo from 2005 was this one of scooter tracks in a mud puddle.  I like it because it reminds me that for several weeks, I enjoyed my morning scoot by practicing a new art form I made up.

I would steer my scooter through mudpuddles in the parking lot, and make different patterns with tracks. Then I would snap a picture, and name it for whatever the design most reminded me.

Herewith: Gettything.

Monday, December 5, 2005


Dear Dream Depository: A new phenomenon to report. Not a dream, because I lay awale this night. A note about the monologue that goes on in my head as I lie awake... The monologue was going on as usual but I wasn't listening. What? I wasn't listening to the voice that goes on inside my head. It was talking and I was thinking about something else.

Sounds like a joke, "What if you talked to yourself and nobody was listening."  Well, it really happened last night.

Later, I heard my talking watch say, "It's three o'clock am". When I had tossed and turned enough I got up and turned on the computer. I noticed that Mavarin, Karen, was online.  She must be up too, probably writing, and just how does she do that, She has to go to work in the morning.

I am glad I do not have to work for I would be a wreck without sleep.  As it is now, I have insomnia, so what? Take a longer nap tomorrow.

As a soldier I got used to sleeping anywhere. Cots were fine, but overseas we would throw a blanket on the ground and sleep.  I have slept on the ground, in a hole, in a pup tent, on a concrete floor of a captured German pill box, and most often on the floor of some building we had occupied. I have slept sitting up in a jeep, in an armored car. Once I went to sleep sitting up in a troop train and fell on the floor.  My buddies picked me up and put me back on my seat without my waking up.

That was then.  Now I can't get comfortable if the bed is too soft or too hard, or the pillow is too high or too low. I have been known to get out of bed and sleep on the floor. Don't do that anymore, too hard to get up off the floor. I try turning around and sleeping with my head where my feet should be.  Sometimes works.

I am glad the computer is always available.  If I can't sleep I can turn on the H-P, fire up AOL and read journals, and like now, write in mine.

Friday, December 2, 2005

Color Sound Movies -- Weekend Assignment 88

John Scalzi asks us to tell him about something we wished we had in the good old days, when we were kids, that we do have now, in the Good New Days.

I used my first pay check ever to buy a Keystone 8mm movie camera.  I was hired to clean the office of the Valley Escrow Company, a family business.  Each day, after breakfast and before school, I used to ride my bicycle to the office, use my key, enter and clean the office by dusting, emptying waste baskets, sweeping, and cleaning the restroom. Then I locked it up and went to Van Nuys High School. On Saturdays, I repeated that routine plus mopping and washing the store front window inside and out.

When I got my first pay, I used it to buy the hand held, wind-up movie camera.  With it I filmed the Van Nuys High School Newsreel. One issue featured the football game with San Fernando, the marching of the R.O.T.C, company, noon activities, the student body elections, and a feature showing how the school paper was published.

Each roll of film lasted two minutes, and then turned, lasted two more. Each issue of the Newsreel took five rolls of film and ten camera loads to complete. At first I shot in black and white, with one feature article in color. The movie was silent.  My friends and I expericmented with a separate recording with sound and music, but it was hard to synchonize the two.

What I wished for was a camera which would take more than two minutes of movie, in fifteen seconds per hand wound segments, with an unlimited supply of film, with sound, and color. Alas, my hand held Keystone was state of the art in home movies.

Fast-forward many, many years.  I was making home movies with my Sears VHS cam-corder, capturing color pictures with sound on cheap, reusable, two-hour cartridges.  I thought, "Wow, what a wonderful Newsreel I could have produced in 1939 with this baby." 

It was my boyhood dream, come true.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

Dream Depository

My entrybelow, called Nightmare, stirred a little interest in dreams.  I wonder if, somewhere on the internet there is a Dream Depository.

Is there a place you can drop in on a morning and relate your dreams. I think it is fun to share mine. It would be fun to read each morning what people dreamed about last night. It could be arranged so that screen names did not appear, and only "Dreamname" would identify contributors.

I think  I would start one if I knew how.

--Chuck, looking forward to a Dream Depository