I know, it’s been a while, and I owe you an explanation. Here’s what happened. That sweet natured, kindly, well mannered guy you used to know has become a cantankerous old geezer who sits in front of the television set, shouting obscenities and throwing things at it.
Part of the problem is age. When I went to my doctor not long ago to complain about my knees he said, “There isn’t much you can do. They’re just old knees.” Aside from that I am well and there is even some news about a new book that will be coming soon.
When I was a young man I told myself that when I got old I would be tolerant of the young. I promised myself that with the wisdom that would come with the years I would rise above youthful follies. I would smile at the antics of the young; try to understand their language and their behavior.
It didn’t happen.
So here I am in my “golden years!” You do get some breaks, like lowered prices on some items like restaurants and theaters. But the hell with senior rates at the movies! Most of them aren’t worth even the reduced price, acted for the most part by unappealing people, and filled with gratuitous violence and celebrations of perversity. What ever happened to movies like “All About Eve,” Citizen Kane,” “Great Expectations” “It Happened One Night,” and “Gone With the Wind?”
While many of the problems I have are in what the mother of a friend of mine used to call “my mental mind,” most of my disabilities are physical.
There have been suggestions that the stairs in our beach house will make it necessary for us to sell and find an “alternative life style.” No way. I’m going to crawl up them steps on my knees if I have to. Well, maybe on the left one, the right one just don’t work hardly at all.
Where is the world we used to know?
I mean look what’s happened to our language. Yuknowhahmean? Of course you know what I mean. Either that expression or the shorter version “Yuno?” punctuates just about every attempt at communication made by half our population. I suspect there is an underlying cause for this aberration. I suspect that we have grown so alienated from each other, so distrustful of, or ignorant of our language, that we aren’t sure that what we are trying to express is actually getting through to the other person. So we have to keep asking, “Do you know what I mean? Am I getting through to you? Yuno?"
Even some of our great institutions have fallen into the trap of trying to be cool and appealing to “the youth audience.”
For years I have taken pride in the fact that I am a member of the National Geographic Society. It was formed back in 1888 for the purpose of promoting the conservation of the world’s cultural, historical and natural resources. You don’t just subscribe to the National Geographic Society. You don’t just become a member - you belong to this distinguished organization – one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. I will confess that I have often looked for ways to mention casually in conversation that I am a member of the National Geographic Society.
You should also know that I am a sucker for big fish. I love to catch them, to write and read about them, and to watch others catch them on television.
So I became excited when I saw an ad for a story about a man’s attempt to catch a monster fish in some South American river. I turned on the television only to find that the program had been produced by NAT GEO! Surely I thought, this is not my National Geographic Society. But I was wrong. How this venerable institution has allowed this outrage to take place, I don’t want to know. I tell this to you in confidence. Don’t mention this to anybody. God knows I don’t want the entire world to know that I am a member of something called NAT GEO.
The same thing has happened out here in California in the music world. This won’t come as any surprise to most of you since weird things are happening out here all the time.
While I was growing up back in Virginia during the Great Depression I was an avid fan of The Grand Old Opry. I still love country western music, but somewhere along the way I also acquired a taste for more “serious” music.
I remember a remarkable experience right after World War Two when I was a soldier stationed in Paris. There was a concert conducted by Pierre Monteaux at Le Palais de Chaillot of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies. Whenever I could get a pass I went to these concerts.
Recently I was reading the Entertainment Section of the Los Angeles Times and an ad caught my eye. It invited me to a performance of among other works, one of Beethoven’s symphonies. My interest perked up until I saw that the music was being performed by L.A. Phil.
L.A. Phil sounded to me like he could have been a cab driver who sang to his passengers or the jolly butcher at the meat counter at the Farmer’s Market or even the author of one of those Internet ads offering devices for enlarging one’s manhood, and then I realized it was short for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.
No way I will attend a performance by L.A. Phil.
Some of you may remember a time when we were fortunate to have such great singers as Frank Sinatra and Rosemary Clooney. They were people with talent and style and something we used to call “class.” I hobbled into these vintage years with Frank and Rosie and others like them, loved them and their music, bought their recordings and grieved when they left us.
Today we see such oddities as Lady Gaga. Recently she was the guest on an early morning show. Her entrance on stage was a doozie. She materialized in a cloud of smoke in an upright position but then proceeded to sing much of her song while lying prone on the platform. Most recently on the same show they featured a young boy, not even into his teens, who sang with his adenoids and kept stroking his genitals. I suspect this was a bad habit he picked up from old Michael Jackson videos, but on the other hand he could have simply been checking to see if there was anything there.
The object of my wrath on television at the moment is the NBC newsman, Brian Williams. I kind of liked Brian when he first took over that position from Tom Brokaw. He looked like the kind of guy I might enjoy going fishing with.
But then I began to worry that Brian didn’t know what country he was in. He kept referring to “this country” as if he just happened to be some place and wasn’t quite sure what country he was in. And finally it came to me that Brian was talking about “our” country. I counted one newscast in which Brian referred seven times to our country as “this country.”
I know this sounds naïve, but in this time in our country where there is so much discord, when politics have divided our citizens so sharply, when we face such dangerous enemies, I wonder if it might make a difference if we thought of “this” country as “our” country and feel some small smidgen of shared patriotism and pride in the good old U. S. of A.
I wrote Brian a letter asking him to follow our Presidents’ good example and refer to The United States of America as “our” country, but so far I haven’t heard back from him.
I am really put off by people who talk fast.
Recently there was a young woman on the Today Show who talked so fast that I suspect she had trouble understanding what she was saying herself.
She was probably just graduated from Vassar a day or two ago but oh my goodness, she knew everything about everything.
She was an authority on several topics one of them being the war between men and women. Marriage was her specialty and she informed us that the institution was in trouble in “this country” because partners had taken to sleeping in separate beds, or God forgive them, in separate rooms.
I sent her note explaining the effect that snoring could have on a marriage. I wrote it from personal experience. I have a deviated septum, which causes me to snore so vigorously that I have been known to disrupt the sleep of folks living blocks away. Rather than let my affliction destroy an otherwise extremely happy marriage Jane and I elected to sleep in separate rooms. And we will be celebrating our 57th anniversary this coming October. So far the knowledgeable young lady from Vassar has not responded either.
I still have in my office an upright Royal typewriter. It is in perfect working order and often I work on it for the fun of hitting the keys. The sound brings back happy memories of all those early years when I wrote novels and poems and radio scripts on a similar machine.
But today I work on a computer. It’s faster and at eighty-seven I am trying to finish a novel as well as a screenplay before going to that great Writer’s Guild in the sky. So speed is a necessity. There is one advantage of the computer over the typewriter. You have probably noticed that I have used an extraordinary number of misspelled words.I have been a terrible speller all my life. I never really mastered the art. So I use the spellchecker once in a while on the computer, but I warn you it can turn on you.
For instance I have a fine man for a son in law. He is a considerate, solid citizen, a student of history, a concerned citizen, and a devoted husband to my daughter.
I once sent Pepe an e-mail and before I hit the send button I ran the spell check. Somehow the Spell Check changed Pepe to Peeps, a name you might use to describe a little yellow baby chick.
Well, there is nothing yellow or chicken about Pepe, but he is a good-natured man and the name stuck. In addition to his other good qualities Peeps is a computer expert and it is due to his expertise that these words are being transferred to my BLOG.
So until you hear from me again I’ll just be sitting here listening to L.A. Phil on the radio, watching a middle aged woman in hot pants shouting lyrics to a song I can’t understand, and switching over occasionally to watch fishing stories on Nat Geo, writing notes to Brian Williams to remind him what country he is in and throwing things at the television.
Warm regards and Adios!