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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL P-51 LVR License Plate cropped

PART II: PLANES

“Flying a good airplane doesn’t require near as much attention as a motor car.”  —Charles Lindbergh

* * *

I love flying.  I’d do more if I could, for I have no fear.  But bad back and arthritic knees make for discomfort.  I cannot imagine an eighteen-hour flight nowadays.  Maybe at one time.  There was that trip to Frankfort then on to Istanbul; or the New York to Athens, non-stop; and my six visits to the UK (Anglophile? and summer school at Cambridge University); and I’ll always have Paris (2013).  Still, my bucket list contains the word “Reykjavik.”  Maybe.  Someday.

iceland mapIceland Map

My flying life began in spring 1961.  I was a passenger, with a gift-ticket from my parents, to visit home for Easter Break.  Saint Louis to Midway Airport, Chicago, a four-engine turbo-prop…  I’ll Never Forget My First–within the wispy clouds of the heavens.  And so it began, little by little, but enough for me: a DC-3 and others, graduating to the luxury of a British Airways 747, bigger and better.  I have been fortunate to see the Concorde, up close and personal, and in a museum, sitting in its rather futuristic seats.  Indeed, I have seen it fly, even take off and land.

As an airplane enthusiast, I’ve made trips to airshows and aviation days (Duxford, England, even); I have listened to stories told by fighter pilots, collected books and magazines.  I have visited with World War II bomber pilots, have tried to squeeze my portly non-regulation body over the catwalks in the bomb bay of a B-24.  No way could I make it into the pilot’s seat.

However–oh, my!–what a birthday gift from my wife: One Ticket to Ride in the Collings Foundation B-17G.  One hour.  What a present!  Ten passengers.  During takeoff, I was in the pilots’ compartment, sitting on the floor, hearing every command, feeling every bump on the runway.  Reaching altitude, flying above Fort Myers, Florida, and Sanibel, out over the Gulf, and back to Page field, we riders were allowed to walk through the plane, from tail area to look through the Plexiglas nose.  I even stuck out my head, able to look at the tail as we cruised at many miles an hour, my head being blown about.  (That hour flew by…)  Speechless.  In awe.

B-17 Flight Birthday Gift Oh, The Places We WentJimmy in Birthday Present Ride B-17

[Aside anecdote: That B-17 ride?  I was so child-like nervous-excited (at age 50) that I had to make two visits to the WC before takeoff.  Then one more, as I was about to crawl into the plane: “Do I have time…?”  The plane had to delay takeoff to wait for me from my third “potty stop.”]

collings b-17GCollings Foundation B-17G

I am a dreamer, though, dreaming, hoping someday, of being in the cockpit of the Cadillac of the Sky, the P-51 Mustang.  If I can fit. 

Mustang LoverJimmy Dreamer Next to His Favorite Plane

 

The dreams, though, actually began long ago, those memoriesofatime.  That early airplane- enthusiasm life began with balsa wood, hanging around hobby shops, smelling Testor’s paints and glues.

testors-full-paint-setModelers’ Dream of Testor’s Paints

Real stick models, tissue-paper sides.  Then came “Plastics!”  Snap-apart-parts then glue-together models, fighters and bombers from World War II especially, sizes 1/32, 1/72, or 1/48 scale mostly.  And metal: lead and zinc: Hot Wheels, Matchbox, Maisto, others.  No more toy soldiers for me that I had made in my own little foundry when I was young; I had metal airplanes for a while.  And then?

Then I put away, for a very long time, “the things of a child (“When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”  Paul 1Cor. 8.11?).

The lure of metal airplanes became strong, stronger, as I neared retirement age: “Diecast metal construction with some plastic components.  Realistic panel lines, antennas, access panels, and surface details. Pad printed markings that won’t fade or peel like decals.  Opening canopies, revealing detailed cockpit interiors.  Interchangeable extended/retracted landing gear.  Presentation stand.  Accurately detailed underside.”

In addition, more and more companies moved into the market, while others, like Franklin Mint moved out.  Others began to attract older collectors who grew up with those plastic models, now making transitions to Corgi, Witty, Hobby Master, Dragon Wings, and Gemini Aces, detailed with the “fiddly bits” that made authenticity and squadron markings paramount–and arguable for “purist collectors.”

I became a collector, a hobby-addict.  It’s not all ordering and unboxing, displaying and dusting.

Hobby Master warning label.jpg “Some Assembly Required.”

There can be research, reading, movies to see, stories to read.  Oh, airfields to visit–and even cemeteries to walk

I am not fanatical about my hobby.  I enjoy what I can, see what I can.  As I have previously written, here is what I have learned: The more I learn about one little bit of this or that, the more I realize how impossible it is to really “know it all”–like trying to collect it all.  When it comes down to it, as all know, it’s “whatever turns your crank,” isn’t it?  What I collect, how I collect, why I collect makes me, me.  It is fun and enjoyable.  That works for me–and guides me.

Some LVR s Models Small Part of the Collection

And that’s my story–so far, since once upon a time.  (And, happily, I no longer collect old razor blades.  https://memoriesofatime.blog/2013/10/25/confessions-of-an-addict-reflections-on-collecting/)

 © JAMES F O’NEIL 2018

airplane-ride-birthday-ride.jpg

JIMMY PREPARING FOR TAKEOFF IN BI-PLANE

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

“The truth is that our way of celebrating the Christmas season does spring from myriad cultures and sources, from St. Nicholas to Coca-Cola advertising campaigns.”  –Richard Roeper [BrainyQuote]

“Advertising is the greatest art form of the 20th century.”  –Marshall McLuhan
[BrainyQuote]

* * *

REMEMBER THIS (Review this): Words have no meanings in themselves.  People have meanings for words.  Meanings change in time, in place, in cultures.

Some basics: a FACT is an event, observation, or bit of information, objectively verified (or verifiable), asserted as certain, having real demonstrable existence, past or present.

A REPORT is a (written or oral) statement of fact.

An INFERENCE is a statement about the UNKNOWN, made on the basis of the KNOWN; a “maybe” even.

A JUDGMENT is a statement of OPINION, or an expression of approval or disapproval; an EVALUATION: a CONFIDENT CONCLUSION.

* * *

Advertising is any VERBAL and/or VISUAL statement of communication, which a) ATTRACTS ATTENTION; b) CREATES A NEED; c), PRESENTS A PRODUCT (to satisfy the need or needs).

* * *

Analyzing the “language” of advertising is a learned process, a three-part exercise that takes place sometimes in an instant 30-second commercial, or with the turn of the page of a magazine.

EXPERIENCE…EXAMINE…EVALUATE… 

e. e. cummings writes “since feeling is first…” Intensely experience: see, hear, touch, taste, smell, AND kinesis [motion or non-motion] of the words, pictures, visuals, sounds; the connotation and/or denotation; the sensual (sexual) or/and the sensuous (sensory)–as the Cool Water cascades, or the Land Rover plows through the mountain snows…

Is there any/enough time to EXAMINE the language?  Figures of speech?  “Herding cats”?  “Every kiss begins with…”  Metaphor, paradox, tone (What am I stupid?), bias, irony, simile (“like a rolling stone”), “Things go better with…”; “Real heroes don’t wear capes, they wear…”  Point of view?  What is really being promoted?

Finally, in the last 15 seconds of the commercial for the dog food or the cold medicine or the right tequila or perfume, DECIDE THE VALUE, if you wish, weighing the importance of the mini-argument, the persuasive speech, to have you BUY-BUY-BUY, or to consider the importance of what is being spoken/written, the shingles vaccine or the flu shot, or hand-washing.

ARE YOU A RESPONSIBLE VIEWER/CONSUMER?

Next time you scratch and sniff that perfume sample in the magazine, see those TV kids spill that milk on the clean kitchen floor, smell that litter box through your 52″ 1080p HD LCD television, hear that KIA commercial one more time on the radio, or page through a two-month old issue of People while waiting for your annual doctor’s visit, pause for a moment.  Be a critic:

DISCOVER PURPOSE…CRITICIZE TECHNIQUE…JUDGE ITS WORTH

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

PART I: TRAINS

“One of the things the government can’t do is run anything.  The only things our government runs are the post office and the railroads, and both of them are bankrupt.”  — Lee Iacocca

***

Once upon a time, a long time ago, after my Grandpa Cummings had retired from many years with the Pennsylvania Railroad, pennsylvania railroad symbolhe took me to visit a friend of his at a switching yard on the South Side of Chicago.  The three of us walked through the roundhouse, walked among the rails, and even watched to see the railroad turntable in operation.

In rail terminology, a railway turntable or wheelhouse is a device for turning railroad rolling stock, usually locomotives, so that they can be moved back in the direction from which they came.  Railroads needed a way to turn steam locomotives around for return trips as their controls were often not railway turntableconfigured for extended periods of running in reverse, and in many locomotives the top speed was lower in reverse motion.  In the case of diesel locomotives, though most can be operated in either direction, they are treated as having “front ends” and “rear ends” (often determined by reference to the location of the crew cab).  When operated as a single unit, the railway company often prefers, or requires, that a diesel locomotive be run “front end” first.  All this is visually and masterfully shown in the movie with Denzel Washington, Unstoppable.unstoppable train of denzel

So, the three of us, walking up to a diesel whose engine was running, climbed aboard.  I sat on my Grandpa’s lap for a bit, then stood at the controls.  And he moved the control my hand was on.  We moved.  Forward, ever so slowly, down a length of track.  Surely, I did not wet my pants, but surely, my rheumatic-fever heart was racing in excitement.  Yes, I sat at the engineer’s controls, with my grandfather standing next to me, and we powered the engine forward.  Slowly, I pushed the control lever forward (or sideways).  I was eleven or twelve, maybe 1951 or 1952.  Those ages and dates are not part of the details.  I was there.  The smell of fuel, the motors’ noises, the motion of the train engine I cannot forget.  How many young boys have had such an experience to talk about?  (Don’t tell Homeland Security that I actually “drove” a diesel engine in a switching yard on the South Side of Chicago.)

Pennsylvania RR diesel by RRPictureArchives Net Kim Piersol Pennsylvania RR diesel

I have had an on-again, off-again love affair for trains.  I did have a Christmas-present American Flyer electric train set that never seemed to work properly: maybe parts, maybe the rugs or the floor or the connections.  Lionel-boys always had more success with theirs; we Flyer-types were not as lucky with our two-track system american flyer track from ebay (though that was not always the problem).  Lionel had the heavier three-track, more expensive gauge sets, parts, transformers–all the right “stuff.” lionel on ebay.jpg So my frustration abounded, as trains were taken out and put away; I never had a basement with a large open space for a board for a train layout.  [An interesting bit of Wiki-history: During the 1950s, Lionel outsold its closest competitor, American Flyer, by nearly 2:1, peaking in 1953.  Some Lionel company histories say Lionel (more than just trains) was the largest toy company in the world by the early 1950s.  The 1946–1956 decade was Lionel’s Golden Age.  The Lionel 2333 Diesel locomotive, an EMD F3 in the colorful Santa Fe “Warbonnet” paint scheme that was introduced in 1948, atsf-347c-emd-f7a-santa-fe-diesel-electric-locomotive-wernher-krutein became the Lionel company icon and the icon of the era, yet Lionel declined rapidly after 1956.  Hobbyists preferred the smaller but more realistic HO scale trains, and children’s interest shifted from toy trains to toy cars.  Efforts to increase train set profitability and/or sales by cheaper manufacture (largely by replacing castings and folded sheet metal with unpainted injected-molded colored plastic) were largely unsuccessful; 1957 was Lionel’s last profitable post-war year.  In 1959, the business direction of the Lionel company changed: it added subsidiary companies unrelated to toy train sets.  The company lost more money. See more in Wikipedia.]

Trains have continued to be part of my transporting life.

Back in the ‘50s, our family vacationed for many years for a week or two at the Shubat’s Resort.  That was cabin livin’ summer cottage sisters lakes

though with indoor plumbing and beautiful water and great fishin’,

at Sisters Lakes, Michigan.  sisterlakesmichigan.jpgNot well known, but better recognized if I say “near Dowagiac,” or Benton Harbor.  Those were great growing-up summers with my cousins and siblings, and “friend-girls” from different neighborhoods in Chicago. 

One memorable summer of my hormonal youth, a sophomore in college, I was on a train, going to that Michigan Paradise with Laverne, meeting our families who were already there.  She and I had grown-up conversations; she was the grown up, the neighbor lady to my aunt, the Eloise to me-Abelard-sans letters, the Isolde to me-Tristan, my Guinevere, my courtly-loved.  She was married with kids.  I was young, naive, infatuated.  So much to think about on that train ride.  That so special train ride…from Chicago to Michigan.

During the summer of 1968, I spent time in Delta House!  On the campus of the University of Minnesota, taking a few post-grad grad courses.  Three courses, small room with bed and dresser, shared bath and shower and fridge and cereal cabinet.  Delicious library, smoking in the classrooms, considering how my light (time) was spent with John Milton and a totally delightful professor, but unfortunately also with a totally boring Shakespeare scholar.  The other peak experiences were the bus rides to the train station to board and train-ride south to Winona to visit wife and kids for a weekender, with them and no books.  And then back again on Sunday night or early Monday morning.  Those train rides that held the memories of the weekend activities, loving and familial.

Though my train-love has given way to airplanes, I still am fascinated by the sounds, and sights, and history, and large-sized picture books of trains.  And have still used the rails in my life of travel. 

I did have a horribly uncomfortable coach- ride to Richmond, Virginia, not many years past, S-L-O-W, CREAKY, AND UNSLEEPABLE.  “It will be some time before I board a train again!” you might have heard me say.  Those trains in Europe?  We’ve seen Jason Bourne speed across European countryside on the TGV.  TGV-Duplex-21.jpg Yes, I have done that too.  And the “Chunnel” Eurostar, London to Paris?  Yup, that too.  London to Carlisle, to Cambridge, to Oxford.  Never yet to Cornwall or Land’s End, or to see Doc Martin’s place.  Mostly–mostly–friendly, delightful, memorable. 

I’ve waited for a train on Platform 9 ¾ in London, at King’s Cross Station…and waitied…and waited…9 3-4 KINGS CROSS STATION

And in 2013, Paris to Chartres…  That’s  how I want to travel by train.  Maybe someday on the Orient Express?  Probably, not. 

However, I’ve heard the Canadian Pacific has a beautiful train route…  Canadian-Rockies.jpg

Perhaps…

©  JAMES F. O’NEIL  2017

 

 

 

 

 

BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“There is no value in life except what you choose to place upon it and no happiness in any place except what you bring to it yourself.”  –Henry David Thoreau

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…”  Once more we have braved the 18-wheelers that ruthlessly plow through rain troughs, spraying everywhere.  Once more we pack and unpack: MOTEL; pack and unpack: MOTEL; pack and unpack: ARRIVAL.  “WE’RE BACK!”

Ohio Cottage #16

PIC OF COTTAGE 16

Yes, we have arrived.  It’s been two years.  A friend said the spiders probably have saddles; the webs are taut, but not too many.  Dust and some dirt.  But not too bad.

We’re back in town: Bethesda, Ohio: Same post office; pizza-parlor-restaurant remains.  However, some town expansion: new fuel pumps, re-conditioned gas station; new clock and clock tower, and newly established military memorial.  Some streets recently paved. 

More ducks and geese at the lake, noisily sounding out for food from cottage guests.  Some dead trees felled by recent storms lay scattered in the park area, awaiting disposal.

Inside, for me, after a week of sorting clothes, and catching up on minor repairs, I’m ready for…nothing.  TO VACATE.  IT’S VACATION!  Is it not?  I brought six magazines and three books.  Why?  And the books unread from previous years (including Doctor Zhivago and Madame Bovary)?  I’ve already made a trip to the library with book donations.  (I love that place. But with little self-control, I checked out four DVDs and picture-filled books: all about chocolate, and new watches of 2017.)

barnesville public library

Barnesville Public Library

So friends ask, “What do you do when you go to Ohio?  What do you do all day?  Do you ever get bored?”  Never bored.  And the days go so quickly…

Up: 8:00-9:00   Morning Reading and Meditation: 9:00-9:30

Breakfast: fruit, cereal, cappuccino, toast, oatmeal, vitamins, coffee, medications, etc.  9:30-10:30.

Contemplation of Day’s Activities while watching ducks, geese, humming birds: 10:30-11:45. 

Planning for Lunch: 11:45-noon (Get mail at post office in town.  Postal employees have lunch from twelve to one.  Mail goes out at 4-ish.)

Afternoon activities: Painting, dusting, cleaning, sitting watching lake and humming birds: noon-2:00 pm.

Lunch: 2:00 pm-3:00 pm: soup, sandwiches, salad, fruit, piece of Dove chocolate, etc.

Continuation of Activities: 3:00-5:00 pm (or laundry, litter box, play with cat, quiet reading, gardening–while in afternoon shade)

Nap Time: 5:00-6:00 pm. Quiet time.

Preparation for Dinner, and Dinner: 6:00-8:00 pm: Cooking, salads, varied recipes, or even an occasional pizza from the local pizza place.  Then cleanup.

Evening: 8:00-ish: Movie/DVD, reading, writing, catching up on “stuff” like mail and bills, quiet time, game time, perhaps time on the swing (depending on the mosquito population).

Ready for bed: 10:00-11:30 pm: Reading, showers, litter box, snack, continuation of DVD, night medications.  Check food and water for cat.

Good night.  “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” reads the sign in the bedroom.

OR

ALTERNATIVES: 11:00-6:00 pm: Wal-Mart, Lowe’s, Kroger’s, Ollies, Jo-Ann Fabrics…  Dinner out.  Shopping, shopping, shopping.  From cottage to car to St. Clairsville (12.7 miles) to Ohio Valley Mall, et al., to cottage, to unloading groceries.  Or getting a haircut.  Or visiting Goodwill because the temperature dropped to 58 degrees and we were not prepared.  Or Steak ‘n Shake…

OR

Painting or gardening as major full-day summer projects…

OR

An evening with friends: “The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.” –Henry David Thoreau

* * *

“So, what do you do in Ohio?”  “Oh, we just relax.”

 

©  James F. O’Neil  2017 

 

 

 

 

 

“Literary critic Harold Bloom wrote that Heart of Darkness had been analyzed more than any other work of literature that is studied in universities and colleges, which he attributed to Conrad’s “‘unique propensity for ambiguity.’”  [Wikipedia information]

“Let’s take in an old movie tonight.  Have you seen The Hunger?”  “Will I like it?”  “It is delicious.”

the-hunger-movie-poster-1983

Many claim to have a hunger for knowledge.  Knowing about the types of critics may satisfy that hunger. 

https://memoriesofatime.blog/2016/04/29/being-more-critical-some-kinds-of-critical-approaches-or-helps/

Should you like to dig you teeth into an oldie-but-goodie–but a special treat–locate a copy of The Dynamics of Literary Response by Norman N. Holland (1968).  You will not go away unsatisfied.

He writes that our first pleasures that quieted us were oral pleasures, satiating our hunger.  We were held by a mother, nurtured by a mother.  Here is the foundation for taking in “pleasure”–artistic or literary.  Yum!

From there, remember memoriesofatime being read to, and how pleasurable it was, being cuddled or curled up to someone or in someone’s lap?  More gratification and satisfaction.

And we curl up and watch a good movie with some ice cream.  Or our movie-going or movie-watching is a feast sometimes, actual appetite satisfaction with popcorn and soda (pop), Twizzlers, and perhaps even nachos.

We read or attend, for pleasure, maybe even receiving pain; but we manage feelings that are virtual.  Even though, as Holland says, we “devour books,” and are sometimes “voracious readers,” taking it all in.

The Psycho Critics help us find our way through the maze of our dreams and fantasies, help us clarify muddled images, awake or not.  And even help us understand art and literature through knowing our earliest awarenesses of gratification and satisfaction.

All that food and drink (and drugs) in movies do play a role in our “liking” or “not liking” a movie.

https://memoriesofatime.blog/2015/11/18/psycho-critics-how-literature-works/

 twizzlers

 https://memoriesofatime.blog/2013/09/13/dirty-harrys-favorite-food/

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“And the Oscar goes to La La Land….  No!  No!  Wait!  That can’t be right.  It isn’t right.  The Oscar goes to Moonlight!”  “Huh?”

It’s complicated, this movie reviewing stuff.  But maybe reviewing is simply a matter of telling persons who are busy what is better to see than to see something else, simply what NOT to see: “Don’t waste your time.”  “It’s a waste of money.”  “Don’t bother.  See X instead.”

However, do I want a review, or a formal analysis of a movie?  “Thumbs Up” or 5-Stars, or cultural response, production history, or values discussion?

What do you NEED to make you WANT to see a particular movie: old, new, classic, recent, color, black and white, documentary, drama, comedy, Netflix, Redbox, STARZ, Cobb Theatres; story, technology, actor or actress, theme, technique–and more, much more?  Does the critic count for you?  Explanation and evaluation?    

“Critics would be useful people to have around if they would simply do their work, carefully and thoughtfully assessing works [of art], calling attention to those worth noticing, and explaining clearly, sensibly, and justly why others need not take up our time.”  –John Gardner, On Moral Fiction (1978)

SO: Watch these movies for “greatness”–or NOT!”

UP IN THE AIR

CASABLANCA

P.S. I LOVE YOU

A GOOD YEAR

LOVE ACTUALLY

JERRY MCGUIRE

ALIEN

BLADE RUNNER

THE HOURS

THE ENGLISH PATIENT

GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING

* * *

“Art is meant to be experienced, and in the last analysis the function of criticism is to assist that experience.”  –David Daiches (1956; 1981)

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

Destry Rides Again is a 1959 musical “comedy”–a Western with music and lyrics by Harold Rome and a book by Leonard Gershe.  The play is based on the 1939 classic film of the same name, starring Marlene Dietrich and Jimmy Stewart.  The musical starred Dolores Gray and Andy Griffith.  Tom Destry (Griffith) abhors guns but becomes sheriff of the town of Bottleneck.  There, The Last Chance Saloon singer, Frenchy, proves a distraction in his mission to bring the bad guys to justice.  Poker, swindle, shooting, murder, and “bad women” form the substance of the drama–somewhat of a “classic” Western.  As the story goes, the character Gyp Watson has been arrested for the murder of Sheriff Keogh early in the play.  [See Wikipedia and other sources]

[The video clip is “Are You Ready, Gyp Watson?” performed on a TV variety show, featuring the original 1959 Broadway cast.  The great Dolores Gray appears as Frenchy, and Michael Kidd did the choreography.  Songwriter Harold Rome’s counterpoint melody inspired Kidd to turn this into a major dance number, which contributed to his winning the Tony Award for Best Choreography.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BG4Mjq0H6Ic

I had never heard of the play nor heard the music until I was in college “back then.”  I was attending a men’s college, a small Roman Catholic seminary in Missouri.  Part of our curriculum, and a large part of our spiritual life, was song, and Gregorian chant.

Haec Dies Quam Fecit Dominus gregorian

Songs and hymns during liturgical services took place almost daily with the entire group of students.  One of my classmates, Ray Repp, approached me one day with an offer to join him and a few others to have a musical audition in a classroom.  He wanted to start a group to perform for the students.  Ray got us together, worked us, found us music, chose us a name, and set up a practice schedule during our free time.  We would sing when the school had time allotted for various entertainment activities, like one-act plays, songfests, movies, and amateur nights.

The Princetons were formed.  We were a timely group, with our musical repertoire for the ‘60s:  “Lemon Tree” “The River Is Wide, I Cannot See” and other ballads requiring good voices and one guitar.  And, of course, Gyp Watson’s funereal hymn which I still hum–and cannot ever get out of my head!  “Are you ready, Gyp Watson?  Are you ready, for to die?  Are you ready, Gyp Watson, for the last big roundup in the sky?”

And The Princetons had their “outfits”: black pants/trousers, black shoes, and white shirts, sleeves rolled up twice.  However, the distinguishing feature had to be our haircuts.  “Seminary” haircuts?  That would never do.  Not military cut, either.  Better, the “Princeton” cut:

princeton classic haircutA Princeton haircut–an Ivy League, or Harvard Clip–could be a kind of crew cut with enough hair styled on top for a side part.  Many individual variations came about.   

The hair on the sides and back of the head is usually tapered, short to medium.  (An Ivy League is traditionally groomed with hair control wax, sometimes called “butch wax”–a bit stronger than Dapper Dan pomade used by Ulysses Everett McGill in O Brother, Where Art Thou?)

princetons haircutsFAMOUS WEARERS OF PRINCETON HAIRCUTS

The Princetons of St Louis had their time, and made their mark.  And it was fun.  Ray thought we were good–and wanted us to make a recording of some of his music.  We did go to a small recording studio in St Louis and sang our best.  A tape was made.  Each of us had to contribute dollars for the master to be sent to various radio stations and critics.

Peter, Paul, and Mary, the Kingston Trio, and other groups were similar in some respects.  (Some memory tripping here: the Brothers Four, The Limeliters, The Chad Mitchell Trio, The New Christy Minstrels.)  “As noted by critic Bruce Eder in the All Music Guide, the popularity of the commercialized version of folk music represented by these groups emboldened record companies to sign, record, and promote artists with more traditionalist and political sensibilities.”  We certainly were in good company, but were not very popular.  And so ended my “semi-professional” music career, though I did not cease to sing. 

I had always loved to sing, was always told I had a good voice–good enough for church choirs, high school chorus groups, and men’s choirs and choruses.  I sang the full range from young castrati-type soprano (with a Michael Jackson voice) to first tenor, like that of my Chicago Opera-singing friend, Jimmy Pappas [from Pappas Ice Cream Shop]  (who helped me love classical music and Lakmé and La Boheme, among other operatic works), to second tenor.

I have sung in Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Arkansas, Washington, Texas, Florida–at churches and sporting events, at weddings and at funerals.  I can still be “choked up” at “O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave // O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?”

All this has been good.  I have had few bad experiences with song, or with reading music, or with hitting the proper notes.  There is, however, one forever-lasting impression of my place in the music world.  Once, in mid-life, I answered an ad, a call for auditions to the Florida Symphony.  I submitted all the proper paperwork, and found my way to the audition hall.  I was dreaming of tuxedos and travel and concert halls.  The audition practice began with Handel’s Messiah.  Some members of the chorus I already knew; some were like me, novices with the chorus, trying out, trying it out.messiah for satb

I knew I had to banish thoughts of black ties, patent-leather shoes, tuxedo tails when I realized pages of music were being turned–and I had not gotten there yet.  More tries.  More pages and notes and directions than I had ever experienced.

“Buddhism considers humility a virtue that must be won through a long process of self-observation.  It requires a healthy measure of self-confidence and courage to achieve a realistic and humble understanding of the self.”  (Sam Keen)

O say can you see how humble an understanding of myself I had at that time?!  At the break, I told the director that I could not do it.  End.

I am a hoarder, an addict, a collector: once upon a time, I probably had a thousand music CD’s, long after I had a record collection of classical and other music, choruses and operas included.  Downsized now, I still surround myself with music as much as I can. 

And, from time to time, Poor Jud Fry in Oklahoma, Tony in West Side Story, Gyp Watson, and a few other characters bounce around in my life–coming from I-don’t-know-where.  Though I am glad I have them to remind me of my days of song, and my brief musical career, and to bring me such memoriesofatime.

©  James F. O’Neil  2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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