The outpouring of love and affection shown David Cassidy in the last days before his death was genuine and heartfelt, but part of me wonders — where were all these girls in my circle of friends at Audubon Park Elementary?
Back then all my friends had posters of Donny Osmond on their walls. They wore pairs of purple socks and knew all the words to Sweet and Innocent.
Who would want sweet and innocence, when this guy was on every Friday night?
In light of today, Keith Partridge was sweet and innocent. But back then that smile, those shaggy locks and puka shells were–slightly dangerous.
In the early seventies a typical Friday night consisted of my younger sister, myself and Mrs. Cox, our sixty-something babysitter, gathered around the television set teetering on a TV cart. The Brady Bunch came on first, at eight.
The world loved The Brady Bunch. With their parents and Alice to shepherd them, they were an after school snack of whole milk and apple pie. Their group, The Silver Platters, was formed to win a $100 prize for an anniversary gift for Carol and Mike. But to this second grader, Marsha, Greg, Jan, Peter, Cindy and Bobby were a warm-up act for The Partridge Family.
The Partridge Family had an edge. With a single mom, manager and rehearsals in their garage, the group had coolie instruments: a drum set, electric guitar, electric keyboard and a Tamborine. Keith sang of waking up in the morning, grabbing pillows and screaming out things like “I think I love you.” Whoa. A lot of pseudo-adult imagery for a seven year old in 1970.
The Partridge Family meant 30 minutes to watch Keith Partridge for real. He talked, he sang and joked with Danny, all dreamy things when the rest of the week he was just an adorable image on a Tiger Beat cover.
“Why doesn’t he cut that hair?” Mrs. Cox would ask, every. single. week.
Why would he cut that hair? Of all the cool shags in the universe, Keith Partridge was the pinnacle.
Looking back on it, David Cassidy was just too pretty for his own good. The most adorable 20-year-old package of smile, eyes and bangs ever.
When you live with a guy — a 3 x 5 foot guy — taped to your wall, he becomes part of your life. He’s in the back of your mind (or forefront) when the social pressures of third grade just got to be well, really icky.
If Keith met me, walked into life back then, I knew he’d be kind and smile. We’d get into some zany predicament or mystery that would be solved in 30 minutes.
He’d take me to the fair and we’d ride the Merry-Go-Round. He’d smile and break into the perfect song.
Or maybe I’d be his special guest at a Partridge Family Concert. I’d be seated at a table with a red-checkered cloth and candle flickering in a jar. Concert goers would dine on spaghetti and a salad while Keith and the Family rocked out on stage.
As the years rolled on, my David poster came down and Rod Stewart took his place.
I didn’t need the fantasy of Dream Dates with David, though not sure exactly when they ended . . .
Surely by freshman year of college. Or was it when my first son was born?
At the end of his earthly life, I hope David Cassidy realized what a sweet-and-innocent forever impact he had in the lives of untold legions of girls, like yours truly.
After lighting the pumpkins in anticipation of Trick-or-Treaters, I hurried to my closet for something Halloweeny to wear. Looking through scarves and costume jewelry, I uncovered nothing.
Then I spied a silvery crown, one with pink feathers, tucked on top of my necklace rack.
I bought the Dollar Tree crown a few years ago as bling for the Disney Princess Half Marathon. After the race, I placed it in my closet and it stayed there till Halloween night.
Adjusting the combs just so in my hair, I donned sparkly diamonds, earrings from Target.
And so came the fairies, Super Marios, ghouls, pumpkins and bumble bees. I sat on the steps with a big bowl of candy and as the children approached, magically we were eye-to-eye.
Up came a large group of young girls. There were witches and princesses and many witch princesses.
“Who are you?” asked a young girl dressed all in black, another generic witch princess.
She stood in front of me with a black wand poised at her lips. Her eyes glanced at my forehead. Her mouth squished into a line of discernment, concentrating on my face as her friends feverishly grabbed Kit Kats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.
Who was I? Wife, mom, a little weary if honest — doing my thing day in and day out, trying to have a little fun handing out candy
Lifting her wand, she tapped me on the head, “A Flamingo Princess.”
Most satisfied with her pronouncement, she snatched a pack of Skittles and turned to join her friends.
With her proclamation, not unlike Samuel’s anointing of the young shepherd David, some switch deep down inside me flipped.
The Flamingo Princess. That’s who I’ve been all along, I just didn’t know.
The rest of the evening I carried myself a little bit taller. Knelt down just a bit lower to speak to the smallest of Captain America’s.
Not quite The People’s Princess, The Flamingo’s Princess does come with responsibility.
I need to find my flock. The flamingos at Zoo Atlanta are tucked just inside the front entrance. I don’t even have to buy a ticket, I can just stand at the fence in my crown and call to them.
Communication might be a problem. As well as the fact that they are birds and have no earthy idea what a princess could do for them. On second thought, I’m not sure what I could do for them except represent them like I’d imagine they’d like to be represented if they weren’t flamingos and knew what a Flamingo Princess could do for them.
There you have the Flamingo Princess. Just as Disney would draw a sleep-deprived menopausal Flamingo Princess.
Maybe not Disney. Most women of a certain age in Disney stories are Wicked Queens, Evil Stepmothers or Stealer of puppies.
These days not much leaves me slack-jawed. Awed. Nope. Not even a triple-decker bacon cheeseburger medium rare. Then last weekend, I saw the Navy’s Blue Angels cavorting and swirling as hummingbirds over the San Francisco Bay.
Our visit to the Bay Area coincided with the annual Fleet Week festivities and performance by the Blue Angels. Every place we went, people buzzed with anticipation.
“Are you in town to see the Blue Angels?”
“The wharf will be packed with the Blue Angels performing today.”
“They forecasted fog, but it looks like the weather will be perfect for the Blue Angels.”
“Maybe if you are lucky, you can be on the ferry to Alcatraz when the Blue Angels perform.”
We were inside shopping at Fisherman’s Wharf and the roar of a practicing jet reverberated overheard. “Perfect timing for my break,” said the young clerk as he darted outside.
Good grief. What was big deal?
I love ‘Merica as much as the next person. Consider myself patriotic. We fly Old Glory. But getting all worked up about jets swooping around playing tic-tac-toe in the sky?
Seen it. Tom Cruise in some movie thirty-some years ago. Highway to the danger zone. Yada, yada, yada. Ride into the danger zone. Big whoop.
Then we waited at Pier 41 to board a ferry to Sausalito as the blue jets roared over the bay.
After I pulled my bottom jaw off the wharf, I tweeted this photo my husband took.
I gave up trying to take photos with my phone. Anything I could have captured would have been a mimeograph compared to a three-dimensional color copy.
Afterwards, every server, store clerk, random guy with bike waiting in line for the ferry back to San Francisco talked Blue Angels.
Later in the evening, we too boarded the ferry for the ride back. Sitting in the cold and wind on the upper deck, I struck up a conversation with a woman huddled on the bench across from me. She was a college professor from a conservative college in a conservative state. Raised in the East, she had gone to school in California and had come to San Francisco for the weekend “to find balanced thought.” We traded stories about our visits. She was one of the many people who had boarded the ferry with a bike after riding across the Golden Gate Bridge. I asked her about the ride over which she said was great and “with the Blue Angels flying over . . .”
“The Blue Angels?” I gushed.
For the next ten minutes we discussed the Blue Angels as schoolgirls fawning over intricate details of Donny Osmond and Bobby Sherman on the cover of Tiger Beat.
“I tell my students there are many kinds of intelligence. There aren’t many people with higher spacial intelligence than those pilots.”
I get nervous changing lanes at 65 mph on the interstate in my $20,000 Nissan, which btw is attached to the ground.
After watching those Navy pilots flying Spirogragh formations — upside down, right side up, wingtip to wingtip, at speeds of 700 mph in a $56,000,000 aircraft — they get high marks for intelligence anyway you measure it.
I’ve reached an age where not much leaves me awed but the Blue Angels did last weekend.
Or maybe it’s because I’ve reached an age where life experience allows me an educated inkling what it must take to fly like that.
I’m old enough to know life isn’t one big computer game or star fighter movie. That incredibly mere mortals sat at the controls of those jets.
Well, maybe mere mortal is a stretch.
It’s more like Wonder Woman and Jack Bauer had a baby.
Upon waking Tuesday morning I didn’t check Twitter first thing.
Or second thing. Or even the third. For as long as I didn’t check Twitter, I couldn’t read confirmation of what probably happened during the night.
Late yesterday in the waning moments of a power yoga class, I lay on my mat staring up at ceiling tiles. In unison left legs extended, right knees crossed over torsos and reached to the floor. My mind wandered. Till a familiar melody and twanging electric chords lassoed my thoughts.
Sounds like Mary Jane’s Last Dance. Yes. Definitely the opening to Mary Jane.
Surely it’s a cover. Don’t all yoga instructors pull up interesting covers of popular songs to show a vast knowledge in the diversity of music out there? Culling playlists from vocalists trying their darndest to bring something different to the original.
Then the unexpected happened.
Tom Petty’s voice.
She grew up in an Indiana town . . .
There on the mat staring up at ceiling tiles, I cried.
So stupid. I tried to rationalize the lump of emotion stuck in my throat and tears rimming my eyes set to drain down my face.
After all I was tired. All day I’d squished down the horrible, horrific news from Las Vegas. Then my children and some recent decisions kicking at my gut.
But in the end I couldn’t deny the trigger for my raw sadness. The death of Tom Petty.
Growing up in Central Florida, he started playing the bars around the University of Florida. I guess that’s why as a girl, I decided he was special.
But the driving energy of his guitar and the honesty of his writing swamped me for life.
Running Down a Dream.
Running Down a Dream that never would come to me, working on a mystery, going wherever it leads. The urgency. I got it. When I was young, newly married. A law school graduate who couldn’t bare the thought of practicing law.
I get it now. Juggling life and trying to pull together 80,000 words in a story that people would want to invest 10 hours of their life. Running toward dreams that might never happen, but all that running leads somewhere. Just what to do with that somewhere?
He painted pictures of women I thought about.
Hey little freak with the lunch pail purse, underneath the paint your just a little girl.
And when I’m cleaning house . . . Don’t do me like that. Don’t do me like that. Baby, baby, baby. DON’T. DON’T. DON’T. Yelling along with the don’ts made things better.
You’re jammin’ me, you’re jammin’ me. Quit jammin’ me. You can keep me painted in a corner. You can walk away, but it’s not over.
The lovely Wildflowers.
Such a complex person. One who wrote, played and sang about the simple complexities of life.
One who could rock a mad hatter top hat and glasses like nobody else on the planet.
You’ve left us here still running down those dreams.
Though not the build up of today’s digital age, in March 1970 word filtered down to Mrs. Harris’ second grade at Audubon Park Elementary that something celestial was going down.
We received mimeographed blueprints on building our very own viewer with a box and pin hole. Staring at the diagram on my desk, I dreamed of a out-of-this-world experience wearing my StrideRite box. One matched only by the Star of Bethlehem Show at the John Young Planetarium just down the road.
I pictured school children in exotic locals like Pittsburgh or Brooklyn filing out into school yards. They basked in the muted sun wearing boxes patched with duct tape on their heads. We never did get around to making our viewers with Mrs. Harris. Nope. In my mind that figured for dinky old Central Florida.
Living just outside Orlando, our viewing percentage was 93.59 for that 1970 eclipse. Which would have been pretty great, except the clouds stole the show. Couldn’t NASA do anything about this? For pity’s sake, they were 40 minutes due east.
It did get dark, but not any darker than before a bad thunderstorm and those happened pretty regularly in Central Florida, back in the day.
My teacher didn’t even remember to mention it.
Talk about a gigantic BUST.
When sky-high expectations of a six year old burn to a crisp free-falling back to earth, it’s hard to trust again.
So when all the hype started about this August 2017 event, I didn’t even click.
Fool me once...
Until my phone rang last Sunday afternoon and my twice-monthly Monday cleaning buddy asked, “So were going watch this eclipse right? You’re my eclipse buddy? After we tidy-up it’s solar blackout par-tay.”
She seemed psyched.
I try not to crush the hopes of others — no matter how futile, so I offered a lame, “Sure . . . I guess.”
With those words, I inched a bitty step toward healing; a tiny spark kindled in my breast.
I didn’t get to make that dopey box, foil and pinhole contraption 47 years ago.
“As God is my witness, I’m bringing my A-game this time around!”
Rare still of the lost Great Solar Eclipse of 1864 Scene from Gone with The Wind.
Yeah, I can’t go so hard on my long ago second grade teacher because those flippin’ viewers are pretty complicated. I gave up after 15 minutes. Can’t imagine trying to do that with 25 six- and seven-year olds.
On Monday morning, I thanked my lucky stars I read about hooking up the binoculars cause that’s about my difficulty level.
Around 1:20 p.m. my bestest DIL, Olivia, came through the back door and announced, “It’s supposed to be starting.”
My pulse quickened.
In my mind, the moon raced across the sun at the speed of a cloud on a summer’s day.
“I’m going out,” I announced with a confidence I didn’t feel.
I mean what’s the big deal? This eclipse thing is not going to break my six heart again. I’m stronger and wiser.
I looked once.
I looked twice and checked that my finger hadn’t inched over the lens.
I looked thrice. Checked my fingers again.
If my thumb wasn’t blocking the binocular lens, then that shadow must be . . .
The NPR videos, the NASA computers and apps, and the 1970’s Weekly Reader weren’t lying — it was real!
Yes Virginia, the moon occasionally blocks the earth from the sun and you can jimmy-rig a box and lens to view it.
We laughed and snapped photos and had quite the party.
Madison, Georgia experienced a 98 percent blockage of the sun.
One thing I didn’t expect was how the temperature noticeably dropped.
Unfortunately (or maybe not), our phone cameras couldn’t begin to capture the light outside.
The light is so cool. Like the world is polarized.
Like many teenage girls in the 1970s, a poster of Rod Stewart graced my bedroom door. Mom cringed as she walked past Stewart’s bleached blonde shag, smirk and beer bottle at his side. She didn’t appreciate his unbuttoned shirt cinched at the waist or the Scottish tartan ribbon big as a Texas Homecoming Queen’s chrysanthemum pinned to his chest. When Dad passed by Rod he liked to observe, “He needs a bath.” Who knew after all this time, Rod “Needs-a-Bath” Stewart would give voice to my most intimate feelings on my son, Jake’s, upcoming nuptials?
A week before the wedding, my lovely future daughter-in-law, Olivia, asked my suggestions for the D.J. during the mother-son dance. A panicked Google search ensued. I considered Unforgettable,I Hope You Dance or Hit the Road Jack. Nothing hit the mark. Nothing till I saw Forever Young. Bells dinged like I’d won the The $10,000 Pyramid with Dick Clark’s nodding smile and encouraging applause.
When Stewart released the song in 1988, it added sparkle to his fading star. He later admitted similarities to Bob Dylan’s earlier song of the same name must have sprung from his subconscious. He agreed to split ownership of the song and profits 50-50 with Dylan. Listening to Dylan’s song, it had the right tempo and message for our dance, but it wasn’t right. Watching Stewart’s video — where he cradles his young son in the bed of a pickup — I couldn’t get enough. Teary eyed, I played it over and over ignoring my 13- and 16 year old’s cry to “Make it stop!” I couldn’t stop. In the video, Rod was young. I was young. And every line brought to mind when Jake was young.
Morning drives to the Primary School as he talked of the Cricket Club at recess. This Cricket Club having no ball or wicket but spitting brown insects to the delight of seven-year-old boys. Young Jake who fumbled the ball three (or four) times his first middle school football game. The crowd’s remarks drove me from the bleachers to stand at field level. A better spot to vomit, anyway. Or the Friday night when Jake feared he had a concussion and this mama told him to play. The game he recovered a fumble and ran in to score the winning touchdown over Greene County.
I liked the song well enough when it came out, the year we married. It had a good beat, though it wasn’t easy to dance to. Then in 1993 Jake arrived and I found out first hand about love that made me scream “Slow Down” to teenagers driving too close to a shopping cart holding my infant son.
In hopes of finding a tune with more of a mother-son dance tempo, I discovered Stewart had recorded Forever Young as a ballad. Just between you, me and Maggie May, I thought I’d be disappointed. But upon hearing it, I sobbed. Sobbed as in the-dog-hopped-on-the-bed-next-to-me kind of sobbed. “It’s okay Tebow,” I said giving our black lab’s head a rub. I stopped short of saying, “These are happy tears.” I’m not sure what to call tears when your heart splatters as a ripe tomato caught under the tire of a garbage truck all the while expanding with love to the size of a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon.
Hard to believe these days Sir Roderick Stewart is 72. And heck no, I’m not broadcasting my age. As for Jake, does it really matter how old he is? For in my heart he will remain.
Watching the last bit, you understand why I wasn’t videoing very close. Mommy or Daddy Mocker came out to kick my interloping tail feathers.
A few weeks after the Mocker fam moved out, I cut down the smilax vine so it would grow back nice and green. Healthy looking. I do this every few years. Only this time when I pulled the brown and crispy vine off the metal frame, the Mocker nest tumbled down too. I considered saving it, but it crumbled in my hands. It had served its purpose.
Or so this bird brain assumed.
After many trips dragging the brown vine to the curb, I sat on the porch surveying the clean, albeit rusty, metal screen. While inspecting scratches my arms and legs received from the thorny vine — low-and-behold — a mockingbird dived over me and perched on top of the metal frame.
“Cack, cack, cack.” Staccato notes erupted from the Mocker as if he spied our cats on the prowl. Then its mate lighted and another hell-and-damn-fire scolding ensued.
Dear God, I tore down their home.
The pair took flight and a much smaller colorful bird — one I’d never seen before or since — landed on the porch railing and started screeching. Screaming. A few moments later, it lighted on the handlebars of a nearby bike — and screamed again.
BEWARE! ON GUARD! Large Destructress wieldeth clippers and hacketh down all our dwellings. Hear ye, hear ye, the end is nigh!
I hung my head and tore at my breast plate. For shame, for shame. After a little googling, I learned mockingbirds use the same next for as many as three clutches each year.
Rat farts upon me!!!
For 12 months every time I saw a mockingbird perched on a wire, a tree, a post — I conjured up my well-honed bird mental telepathy sending I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.
Their stink eye seared into my heart. I deserved every lash, every rip their glares inflicted.
To compound my guilt, thanks to drought and an overzealous yard crew, the smilax screen never grew back.
Until a month or so ago, when the rains started.
The minute a clump of smilax big enough to hold a nest formed,
You’ve watched for 20 years. Okay — you’ve watched it at least once.
Don’t deny it.
Like me, you’ve dreamed of taking that unmarked lamp of your grandmother’s and it turning out to be rare vase from the long ago Martha Washington Pottery Coven?
I don’t have to dream about it anymore — at least taking it to the Antiques Roadshow.
Cause I done did that last June.
We had tickets to the 2016 Orlando show. Those three Roadshow episodes broadcast this month.
This post lacks pictures of the set because photos aren’t allowed in the Roadshow Inner Sanctum where the taping takes place.
My husband and I aren’t going to be featured with our treasures. Because nothing we brought turned out to be worth diddly squat.
My husband rolls his eyes every time I say, “But we could be featured on the Feedback Booth.” After watching the first Orlando episode last week and no us in the Feedback booth, I’m thinking he’s probably right.
Nevertheless, in keeping with my long history of serious investigative blogging, I will spill the lowdown dirty scoop behind the scenes.
The worst thing I can divulge about the Antiques Roadshow is . . . everyone was so flippin’ nice.
So nice in fact that it almost took away the sting of finding out our items weren’t hidden treasures.
And that was a mighty blow. I’d fantasized about sitting there with a Keno talking about my lamp for a long time.
First, we got in a looonnnnggggg line with the folks assigned the same time.
Snaking closer to the gate, I thought be friendly Jamie, chat up with people. My line-mates and I discussed what we brought. How we decided at the last minute what to bring, all-the-while casting furtive glances at people’s stuff in the humongous line.
Once at the main portal, a Roadshow worker places each would be treasure in a category such as: Folk Art, Jewelry, Paintings, Pottery, etc. The Jewelry and Paintings lines were beastly long. John and I found ourselves with two items in Folk Art and two items in Pottery.
The Folk Art appraiser said my painting was worth about $100 less than what my parents paid for it 40 years ago. But he said it so nicely, I couldn’t be too disappointed, at least couldn’t stomp my feet and pout. That is until I left the bright lights of the taping area and stood in another line for my pottery lamp.
Which was a dud as well.
In fact everything I insisted we take in wasn’t a treasure. A bride’s box from the 1700s my husband brought, which I thought was a total fake, ended up being worth $400.
Standing in line for the Feedback Booth taping, a woman from Waycross, Georgia told us that she had tried for tickets every year for twenty-plus years if there was a city within a decent drive of her home. This was the first time she’d been selected.
This was the first time I’d tried to get tickets. Beginner’s luck I guess.
Talking to one of the volunteers, a woman a few years older than myself, I learned she drives hundreds of miles each summer to volunteer at many of the different locations. Which led me to wonder which appraiser does she crush on? I mean if you are into older Poindexters who are into antiques, this is Match.com and Studio 54 all rolled into one.
I’m into Poindexters too. Don’t tell my husband. He’ll be upset that I’ve outed his geek.
And we did get t-shirts because I insisted we wait in one last long line.
Riding along with windows down and sunroof open, I looked out at miles of salt water estuary. Heading to Walmart to pick up a prescription, I drove along the one road off the island.
A carefree solitary moment and then dagnabbit — Brandy came over the radio. The 1972 song by Looking Glass.
“And there’s a girl in this harbor town
And she works laying whiskey down
They say Brandy, fetch another round
And she serves them whiskey and wine
They say,”Brandy, you’re a fine girl
What a good wife you would be
You could steal a sailor
From the sea.”
Every time, every last time this old song surprises me on the radio, emotion swells at my throat. I’m 8 or 9 riding in the passenger seat of a Chevy station wagon on the way to school. My dad wearing a suit drives. Who knows how I’m dressed or if my hair is up in a pony tail? A metal lunch box might sit at my side but there isn’t a backpack on the floorboard. In 1972, we didn’t need such things to carry a slim book home.
Dad and I, Easter 1968.
My dad reaches over to the radio knob and turns up the volume. “I like this song,” he says.
I’ll remember that moment till my last breath.
Why do tears well up and a lump form in my throat? I tried without much luck to force tears pooling in my innards into submission.
Why does a tune about a port city barmaid pining her life away for a sailor who can’t settle down make me soppy with emotion?
I need to figure this out because it’s most irritating when you have to leave the car and appear composed and not like you’ve been crying about riding to school with your father 45 years ago.
A conservative guy, my father didn’t listen to popular music.
In 1972 didn’t all fathers vote for Nixon, wear a crew cut as naturally as a white undershirt and leave work at 5 p.m. no matter what was on their desk? As far as I knew, he didn’t listen to music at all. It was like sex. Parents didn’t do such a thing. Ever. Okay maybe once. Three times tops depending on how many siblings you ended up with.
Here was this solid, straight-as-an-arrow guy turning up the radio for a Top-40 song. And one having to do with an attractive woman serving drinks in a bar.
Who was this man?
Maybe the tears are for the sea of everything I’ll never know about my father? For all the conversations we didn’t have. For all the ones did.
Maybe they are for the sea of things that went on between that moment and now? How that expanse of time, all its joys and mistakes, is lost forever.
Maybe because when things get overwhelming there is nothing I’d rather do than erase all the chatter in my brain and be with my dad riding to school listening to Brandy?
I can’t pin it down to one or even a hundred things.
Surely when I left the car that long ago morning, I had worries.
A test? Lord knows if it was on grammar I was worried. Or should have been.
Maybe it was my week to be on the outside of the in circle? My week to be talked about behind my back and have notes passed to-and-fro about my wader pant legs (an occupational hazard when you’re a tall girl growing an inch every other day).
And surely the boy with whom I was in love didn’t know I existed. For that was my usual elementary school love life modus operandi.
Life is wonderful but it’s complicated and not at all like I thought it would be in 1972. Things will be easier when I’m grown up. Children. Career. Novels. Time for everything. No indecision. Adults know what they want and make things happen. Just like they plan.
Just like I planned. And dreamed.
You know what really puzzles me? How moments fixing dinner and folding laundry seem to drag by then you look up and over half your life has roared by with the furious velocity of a locomotive plowing through Minnesota farmland.
Beats the heck out of me.
I do think I’ve figured out why my dad turned up the radio.