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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 19

Warm Thoughts in the Cold

With dessert long past and the dishes done, the front room windows were now black but for the glow of inside lamps. Mom stepped into Dad Collinge’s room to get their coats.

[Note: I heard the following account many times as a child. It's one of those "can't prove it" things, and I’ve never been much of a mystic, but I confess the thought of it used to creep us kids out whenever went in that room.]

It was in this very room not yet two years before that Mom was sitting beside the bed with her dying grandmother. Her parents and grandfather were on the front porch glider just outside the open window. Mom sat there alone with this dear lady who was like a mother to her, when suddenly Grandma Collinge’s eyes widened. “He’s here, Beverley,” she said. Mom called the others into the room. “I see him at the end of the bed, He’s here,” the faint voice repeated. “Who, Mom? Who do you see?,” they whispered. She looked at them briefly puzzled as if all those around the bed should know who she saw. “Jesus,” she whispered and was gone.

Dad stepped into the little room and saw mom staring at the pillow there.

“I thought you got lost. Are you alright?”

“Just thinking,” Mom smiled, handing him his coat.

After a flurry of hugs and goodbyes at the back door—yes, they lived just ten minutes away, but Mom has always made the most of farewells—Mom and Dad hustled out to the car. They could see their breath in the November air. The cold, cracked vinyl of the bench seat chilled Mom right through her long coat.

"I wish you had warmed up the car before we got out here. It always takes so long for the heater to work. We'll be half-way home before it does any good."

"Do you realize how much gas it wastes to leave a car running for five or ten minutes?" Dad paused, because he, in fact, had no idea how much gas it actually used. "It's bad enough we gotta pay 20 cents a gallon. I don't want to waste it just to heat up the car. Just scoot over here. I'll warm you up."

Mom slid over and Dad put his gloved hand around her shoulder.

"Here's why you don't warm up the car. I know ya, Don."

"What?" Dad asked innocently with a squeeze. He began whistling as always when he was all “talked out.” At first Mom didn't recognize the tune, but she had played it on the piano just a couple hours before: "My Blue Heaven." [Heard here.]

He whistled through the part that says: "You'll find a smiling face, a fireplace, a cozy room...And a little nest that nestles where the roses bloom..." Then he smiled and sang the last two lines... "Just Molly and me, and my baby makes three...We're happy in my, blue heaven."

"It's blue alright—blue because I'm freezin'!" Mom laughed then said more seriously, "and baby makes three. Here I am... hardly able to button my coat... and it still doesn't seem real. Does it to you?"

"What that we're having a baby? I think about it every day."

"I do, too. That's not what I mean. I mean how it will change things. Like for instance, we'll have to move out of the apartment. Have you told Larry yet?" ...[Larry was their Landlord.]

"I haven't told him, but he's got eyes. I don't know why they won't rent to couples with a baby."

"Because of the thin walls. They don't want to hear the crying—Jupiter! They can hear everything we do up there. It's a wonder they didn't tell me I was pregnant before Dr. Licker did."

They both laughed, but Mom hated the thought of starting over again, and she tried not to think about it as she watched the street lights pass. Finally she said, "Wasn't it was good to be home?"

"It was."

"Do you feel at home there, too, or are you just saying that?"

"No. It really was nice. I always feel at home at your folks' house."

"Me, too." she sighed turning on the heater. "Finally some heat. Now you can sing that song again and I won't make fun."

Dad didn't sing. He was deep in his own thought and didn't here what she said. He was thinking about how his family had lived in several houses during the same years that Bev had lived in just one, and he was trying to determine which of them felt most like home to him. It was certainly not the most recent place. Then he said out loud...

"I think it was 16th Street."

"What are you talking about?"

"You asked me where I felt most at home as a kid, and it's probably on 16th and Minnie. You know by the tunnel. [The rail tunnel to Canada.] That's about five houses ago."

"I said you could sing again. I didn't ask you that question..."

"You didn't? It felt like someone did... Oh, well. That's not home anymore." He squeezed her shoulder again.

"That's sad to me, Don. We could go drive by it."

"I do sometimes, but it's not like 'going home' like you did today."

"I'm sorry I brought it up. I know you hated all that moving."

"Don't be, Bev. Time marches on."

"I know it does, but sometimes it's good to go back home—if not through the door than in your mind like you just did. It's good to remember those things."

"I suppose..." Dad sighed, turning into the driveway beside their apartment. The gravel crunched beneath the tires then stopped. "We're home." The words slipped out in empty irony.
Mom patted his knee and slid across the bench seat to her door.

As they stepped up the stairs and inside, Mom paused beside the little table in the kitchen.

"Didn't Mom's table look nice?"

"It did."

"I know now what I want for Christmas," she hinted.

"I saw you looking at the table cloth when I came upstairs. What kind was it. I'll bet they have 'em at Sperry's?"

"I wasn't looking at the table cloth, Silly. I was looking at the table. That's what I want for nice meals—they're formal and yet..."

"We don't need a new table, and we don't have room for one anyway."

"We aren't going to be here much longer. Besides, I don't want a big one, and they fold up nice. The one I want is..."

"Well, just the same. Do you have any idea how much those things cost?" Dad paused again because just as he had never calculated how much it costs to warm up a car, he had never priced such a table cost, but Mom surprised him with an answer.

"It's called a Duncan Phyfe, Don. Your mom has one. My mom has one, and actually, I do know how much the one I want costs—it's not a new table. There's a used on in the paper." Dad was now listening. She picked through a stack of notes and envelopes stashed inside a cook book, and handed him a torn scrap from the Times Herald.

"Ho Ho Ho..." she smiled.

To her surprise, he looked at the price and tilted his head ever so slightly to the right—always a good sign. Without saying another word, she stepped into the bedroom, slipped into her pajamas, got in bed first, and began humming "My Blue Heaven" when Dad turned out the lights and walked across the darkened room.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 18

That Pause Before the Pie

Regardless of what senses are involved, it’s the moment after they can simply take or give no more that brings a smile. Whether it’s the finale of fireworks on the 4th of July, the long last note of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” or the last forkful of a holiday feast, it’s in the instant afterwards, when the full weight of passing pleasure settles in, that our eyes see best what they treasure most.

See if it is not so the next time your sense of sight or taste or touch is running over and love is there to soak it in. It’s in these moments of pause th
at the tie that binds is strengthened for the days when senses are not stirred. It is the dailiness of life that tests us all. And so it is with worship or amorous affection or fireworks or family feasts alike—there comes a need to join together, to celebrate, to let our senses overflow. It’s then we learn to look beyond our want, beyond our fullness, beyond ourselves to a kind of love that endures need and plenty and loneliness.

We’re prone to forget these things, but pausing at such times may lend new meaning to that awkward lull in the conversation at the end of family feasts when sighs and smiles settle down to silence until someone breaks it with the question: Will it be pumpkin or pecan pie?
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On that Thanksgiving Day in 1951, as Dad sat around the table with Mom's family, they all decided to wait a while before cutting the pies. They stepped through the broad round archway that led from the dining room to the front living room.

There in the floor of the archway, above the coal furnace below, was the only source of heat for the entire house. The metal grate was the size of a folded card table and had the smooth, dark patina of decades of foot traffic. Freshly stoked, the grate was too hot to stand on in stocking feet, but it was a family habit for those wearing slippers or shoes to pause there to soak in some heat before moving on. ............. [This human toaster held two or three adults [or four to five kids]comfortably.]

The couch was crowded, the two easy chairs filled, so Mom pulled out the piano bench from the old upright on the staircase wall.

"That's right. Play us a piece, Beverley," said my Grandma Spencer.

Mom was no prodigy, but as a child she had been prodded through tap dancing lessons, piano lessons, and the Drum and Bugle Corp to boot. With that fine résumé, she had spent endless hours tap dancing on the porch or playing her latest "piece" on the piano. But Mom didn't mind. In fact, the visit would not have been complete without taking requests from around the room as she had done all her life.

She opened the piano bench and began to dig through layers of sheet music.

Piano benches are the most forgotten space in a house. They are miniature attics of sorts. Years gather there. Memories of music from various stages of our lives. Songs that became a part of "home" and unknowingly a part of life's sound track. It's all there in the bench. ... [If you have an old piano in your house, see for yourself if this isn't so.]

She picked out a handful of old favorites. I should mention here, that because she grew up with her grandparents and parents under the same small roof, Mom's favorites spanned three generations. If those she loved "loved" a song, she loved it, too. Mom would later pass along to us her gift of treasuring old songs.

She pulled something for everyone from the bench: "In the Evening by the Moonlight," "My Blue Heaven," [Hear MBH here] "Bell Bottom Trousers," [Dad was Navy Reserve and Richert would soon join the Navy. Hear BBT here] and "Give Yourself a Pat on the Back." She ended with her mom's favorites: "It's Three O'Clock in the Morning" then took one more request from Dad Collinge, the Missouri Waltz, a Ragtime hit from his teen years. It had become popular again in 1949, when the new President Truman played it on the piano in a newsreel. One day shortly after that, Grandma slid the music on the piano in front of Mom and said, "Here's a piece to play for Dad."

Long before Thanksgiving Day, 1951, my mother had learned to find joy in pleasing those she loved, but she also knew how to play her hand. After embellishing the last note of Missouri Waltz with some improvised left-hand chords, she spun her legs to the side of the bench and said, “I don't know about you, but I’m ready for some pie!”
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[Since I have not yet figured out how to play music behind my posts, if you have a moment, open this post in two different windows. In one of them, open this link to that old "tie that binds" hymn." Turn your sound on. Listen to the simple piano tune and imagine an old upright piano playing in the front room of a gray clapboard house on Forest and Riverview in Port Huron, Michigan, circa 1951. As that plays, go to the other “window” and re-read the first three paragraphs of this post. May that be the feeling you sense behind all of the music we enjoy this beautiful Christmas season.]

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 17

Cause for Joy and Thanksgiving

When some couples find out they're expecting a baby, they just begin blurting it out to everyone they meet. Exciting news is hard to contain. Others pause just long enough to think about who to tell "first" before they start telling everyone. In both my parents' families it was expected for news like this to start at the trunk of the family tree and work out from there. So after work, Mom and Dad stopped by Mom's folks first as if for no reason at all.

They hurried up the wooden steps by the back porch swing, and stepped into the house with a loud "Hello." I have entered my grandma's house many times myself, and it may be helpful if I share the family secret of how to interpret the word "hello."

Whenever we enter a house unannounced "hell-O-o" has an inflection all its own. It becomes three syllables with a slight melodic rise in the middle. It means, “We’re here. We’re making ourselves at home.” If it doesn't evoke a response from the rooms of the house. It's followed by a "Hello?" just two syllables with the rise at the end. The second pronunciation means: "Is anybody here?" If neither “hello” is heard, we repeat steps one and two only louder.

Knowing how to interpret the returned "hello" is even more important. If the replying "hello" has two syllables and begins high and fades low it means "I recognize that voice. Glad you dropped by." If it's coming from the main floor, has two syllables with a rise at the end it means “I'm not sure who you are, but I'm coming to find out.” If the replying "hell-O-o" has three syllables with a slight melodic rise in the middle and it’s shouted from the second floor, it means "Don't come up the stairs. I'm on the toilet, and the door's open."

Fortunately for Mom and Dad, a collective "hello" came from the kitchen table. Grandpa, Grandma, Great Grandpa Collinge and Mom's brother Richert (It's actually Richard, but Mom always puts a "T" at the end) were just sitting down to dinner. Stepping around the corner toward the voices, Mom and Dad tried to act normal, but their eyes gave them away; then their smiles joined their eyes. Mom's shoulders tensed up like she had to go to the bathroom, and she just shouted, "We're gunna have a baby!" "Ofergosh!" her mother gaped. Everyone cheered and laughed and hugged, but there was no time to stay long. More people to tell.

They headed across town to Griswold Street to tell Dad's folks. There, they stood on the front porch, rang the door bell, and waited until the door gently opened. It was always more formal at Grandma K's house, but once the news was shared, the same hugs of joy were shared. From there, they went from house to house, telling siblings, aunts and uncles, and eventually their closest friends. That night at home, they made phone calls to the people they missed.

When sharing this kind of news, it’s important to make each person feel like they’re among the first to know by adding the line, “We’re not telling everyone yet.” Those five magic words insure that the grapevine news will quietly spread as every new informant in turn “doesn’t tell” a soul and tells that person not to tell anyone else since, after all,, “They’re not telling everyone yet.”

Between all the "telling" and “not telling,” the news spreads with joyful urgency, and in a day or two all the right people know. They've either heard it first-hand from the couple or second-hand from a friend so that they think they know something they're not supposed to know. Everyone is happy. This is as it should be whenever big news spreads from the inner to outer circles of life.

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It goes without saying that the shift from young married couple to parents-to-be is the most dramatic change of adulthood. Not only because of the lifestyle adjustments that come with children themselves, but because something else begins to happen. At first it's barely perceptible. We may not see the clocks moving faster, but the tempo of life picks up. It starts right after that first calculation of nine months, and it doesn’t slow down until… Come to think of it, I’m not sure that it ever slows back down.

Once we comprehend that “two shall become one” and “bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh” becomes a new living soul, we simply begin to measure time differently. Or perhaps it’s then that time begin to measure us. In either case, the years don't seem to stretch as far ahead. Time pleasantly closes in —our focus closes in—and all that loomed beyond our sight now blurs from just an arm’s length... at the thought of a baby there.

It's when time wraps round us like a blanket, that past and present and things to come seem equally close. This tangle of time confuses the mind. We wonder whether events long past can really be that far away, and in the same breath, we doubt that the present is really here and mumble quiet questions to ourselves, like "Can it be November already?"

That's how it felt for Mom and Dad that first autumn. The spangle of summer sun and shade gave way to falling leaves and shiny horse chestnuts resting in the cracks along the walk. September and October passed, and by Thanksgiving, Mom was mid-term with that motherly glow that even a winter coat can't hide.

Their first Thanksgiving dinner was spent with Mom's folks in the house on the S.E. corner of Forest and Riverview where Mom was born and spent every day of her life until the wedding. They'd been there for other meals since the wedding, but there was something special about stepping into the house that day.

Mom caught herself touching things with quiet affection... grandfather's bedposts where they put their coats, the little bean bag ashtrays on the arm of the couch, the yellowed ivory keys of the piano that was silent since she'd left, the two-button light switch on the stair, the white porcelain knobs on the bathroom. It all felt so good, so familiar, that once again she wondered when it is that someplace else begins to feel like home. With a baby on the way, the question seemed more important than ever.

She helped her mother finish setting the table as Don and her Dad went downstairs to stoke the furnace.

"It's good to be home, Mom." she said, pouring the glasses. “The smell of that bread brings back memories.”

"It's good to have you home. Is everything alright?"

"It's great. Everything is fine." She paused, "Mom, when you and Daddy first got married, did you ever feel homesick to be here?"

"Something terrible. That's normal. But your dad and I had to move back home in '30—just before you came—so I can't tell you if it goes away."

"So you lived in this house your whole life except the first two years you were married?" Mom asked as if it had never occurred to her.

"Yes, and that was what... over twenty years ago."

"And then I lived here from the day I was born in the front bedroom 'til the night before my wedding. No wonder I've got it so bad!" They both laughed and stepped back to look at the table.

"Your new table looks nice, Mom. Maybe that's what Don and I need: a nice dining room table like yours."

[Grandma's mother, my great grandmother, whose house this was, had passed away two years before. Not until then did my grandma have her father's blessing to replace the old dining room table with one of her choice. The Duncan Phyfe style had experienced a revival of sorts after this art show in 1929. Twenty years later, the name was adjective.]

"Bev, I've been in your apartment. You haven't got a dining room. What would you do with a table like this?"

"Oh, it wouldn't have to be this big." She looked under the table at the two "banana peel" Duncan Phyfe legs, "It wouldn't have to be a double pedestal. They make 'em smaller. I saw a used one for sale in the classifieds yesterday. I tore it out, but I haven't shown Don. I know what he'll say."

"It's true that these Duncan Phyfes fold up nice. That's why I chose this style, but I still don't see where you'll put one. You might ought to wait 'til you have a house."

"I just want to look at it. Maybe Saturday. I hope they don't sell it before then."

Grandma carried the turkey in from the kitchen and with a voice far less dignified than the elegant spread before her, she hollered for the men to join them. As they sat down to the table and joined hands to pray, they were unaware of a simple fact that would never again be true. Never again when the family gathered around Grandma's Thanksgiving table would there be no child in the room.
[By the time I was old enough to remember, the children outnumbered the adults.]
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Note: This chapter may still need some development, but I wanted to post it today anyway. At this moment our house is full of guests is resting after a fine dinner. Mom's here by the way, she's doing well in spite of her discomfort. My sister and brother-in-law are taking a walk. The TV is is turned to a football game, but I'm not sure anyone is watching.. My little nephews are playing with toys on the floor. Everyone else is looking at some of Emily's wedding pictures. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that it felt like "home" no matter where you were.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Bringing Home the Duncan Phyfe: Chapter 16

The past few weeks have been busy. Lots of distractions from the Duncan Phyfe, but I've been writing when I can and am determined to continue brushing up my notes for the remaining chapters. Thanks for your patience. At the end of Chapter 15, Mom had just told Dad that she was pretty sure she was expecting. She had to go in for "a rabbit test" that afternoon, and they'd know in a week.

Secret Smiles. Secret Fear

Mom and Dad decided not to tell anyone the news until the doctor told them for sure, but between them their secret prompted smiles out of the blue, followed by a gentle "What?" followed by "Nothing..." and another smile. In front of others, their eyes smiled while their mouths tried not to. Dad was a natural whistler, but when he was especially happy, he almost forgot he was whistling and embellished his tunes with trills. Around the apartment and at work, he'd been whistling "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" like a song bird since Friday.

The last two days of waiting for the rabbit's news were filled with quiet anxiety for Mom. What if she'd miscalculated? What if she wasn't pregnant at all? In her most private moments, behind closed doors, she winced to cast a downward glance for fear that it might break her heart. Strange that the very thing that made her scream that day she stepped from childhood, the thing that brought her grandmother up the stairs, the thing that by then had become a pattern of life, a monthly mask to wear, a private conversation with herself… The thought of it happening now, she knew, was more than she could bear.


Star Oil was not Mom’s first job. My mom had worked at the Dime Store before taking a job as the elevator operator at Sperry’s, the biggest department store in Port Huron. The job paid only 40 cents per hour, but she liked it because she worked with her friend Donna (who would later become my Aunt). Whenever the K__ brothers, Don and Jack, came into Sperry’s Mom would zip up the second floor to tell Donna and then they’d both act surprised to see their boyfriends in the store. Mom obviously had her mind on the job at all times. Unfortunately, she once got so flustered when her high school typing teacher, Miss French, got on the elevator and saw her talking through the closing door to Dad, that she went down instead of up and went past the basement—the one thing she was warned not to do. Somehow the Sperry’s elevator could go three feet past the lowest level, and when it did it got stuck and the maintenance man had to up to the roof to wench the elevator up out of the pit. Mom apologized to her teacher as she was crawling up out of the elevator onto the basement floor, but her boss was standing there with less of a smile than her teacher had. Some time after that, Mom no longer worked at Sperry’s.

She then worked as a long distance operator on the switchboard. Mom thought she would like it because she liked talking to people, but nobody really wants to talk to an operator. One customer was asking for Jeddo, a small town north of Port Huron, but Mom thought the man was saying "Jello." The two had a laugh, and that was the closest thing to a conversation she had while working the board. She never talked much about this job. In fact, I didn't know she and Dad had both worked at Bell together (for a short time) until writing this chapter.

She applied at Star Oil and got called back the same day, but in response to “When can you start?” she said “Mr. Kellerman, you don’t want to hire me for accounts receivable… I flunked bookkeeping. The only thing I remember from the class is that bookkeeping is the one word in the English language with three double letters in a row.” But her new boss assured her that they would teach her everything they expected of her.

She liked this job, and didn’t want to do anything to disappoint Mr. Kellerman, but on this day, she had to bend one of the rules just a little bit.

And so it was when Friday morning came, seven days after her visit to Dr. Licker’s office, at 11:01, mom picked up the phone she had been staring at all morning and called for the results of the pregnancy test.

Personal calls were not permitted during office hours, but Mom was certain Mr. Kellerman would consider this an exception…if he knew its importance...which, of course, he could not know..

Her desk was not far in the corner, so she acted all-business as she dialed the number and was told that the doctor would be with her in a few minutes. She nodded to the silence as if listening to an important customer, nonchalantly doodling on a steno pad for effect. Without thinking, her pencil began sketching the torso and head of an upright rabbit, paws poised as if in prayer..

Suddenly she sat up in her chair, eyes wide, hiding her mouth behind the phone. “Are you sure?” she whispered. Still listening, the pencil finished the face of the rabbit with two straight lines for eyes, and she turned the pad sideways as if to lay the poor creature to rest..

“Thank you, Dr. Licker. So…I’ll see you next when?… a month or so? What do I do 'til then?”

Dr. Licker's voice was calming but the words themselves seemed to fall like buttons from a jar. Whatever else he said, she didn’t hear. If she mumbled a farewell, she did not recall. She sat there in a daze with the mute phone pressed against her ear until a sudden dial tone brought the room back into focus. She took a deep breath, cradled the phone in place, and tried to hide her smile.

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A few miles away, Dad was packing his Bell truck at a phone installation. He'd finished the job sooner than usual, and drove along the river to pause at the place mom first told him the news. He would not be swimming today. He knew, in fact, that it would be some time before he'd swim across the river again, and it was that thought that drew him to the spot. He was not disappointed—he was not afraid, but a serious look from somewhere deep behind his eyes peered out at the passing water. He was still happy at the thought of becoming a dad, but there in that moment the playful song of the week changed to a different tune, Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy."

.As he idled down the street toward Pine Grove, the September breeze came in through his rolled-down window. He began whistling the tune that was playing in his mind. He did not recall its name; he did not recall that he'd first heard it a few summers before; he did not know all the words.… he did not know he was whistling at all. He only knew that he was meeting his wife for lunch in ten minutes, and she would know for sure by then. Turning off the truck not far from their picnic spot, the whistling melody faded, and he softly sang the part of the song he knew....


............. “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
............. Is just to love and be loved in return…”


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[That last link, Nature Boy, is a song that had been number one the summer after Dad graduated from high school. He still sang and whistled it later in life sometimes when I was working with him on the house. I was hoping to find a Youtube video of someone like Bing Crosby whistling, because that is what Dad sounded like, but I didn't find anything (except this Whistling Jack Smith hit from the Sixties. (My brother Paul bought that 45, and all us boys used to whistle along, but Dad did not act like that guy when he whistled. He just breathed out a tune and went on with whatever else he was doing.]

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

If Art Reflects Life...

I Just Watched a Disturbing Movie!

I try to avoid politics at POI--at least until both parties officially choose their candidate, and I have a dog in the fight. I've found that it stirs up too many arguments between the friends who gather here to read my meager musings, but a few hours ago I saw the creepiest movie re-run on TV and the actress in it bears a striking resemblance to a younger Hillary Clinton on her best “make over” day.

I’m not sure why I kept seeing this resemblance because this was not a political film.

The movie began with a background story about a husband who takes sexual advantage of unsuspecting women, and when four or five of them file complaints to the authorities, the wife of the cheating, lecherous man seeks revenge on the women her husband victimized—the movie focuses on one family in particular who at first is completely fooled by this woman’s smile and charm. They welcome her into their home as a nanny and sing her praises to their friends. [These next two photos are both from 1992.]

What they don’t know is that this woman is not who she claims to be. She is completely manipulating their perception of reality. For instance, she stages events and even re-writes personal history to make herself look good. This lady creates problems that don't exist and then pretends to solve them—e.g. she secretly puts an earring in the baby's mouth so she can heroically take it out. She also plants false evidence to harm a black character who has earned the family's trust...and then acts surprised when it surfaces. She pretends to help organize a party but it's all a selfish sham, a backdrop for what she thinks will be her crowning moment.
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As she spins her web of deceit, it becomes obvious to the viewer (but not those closest to the woman) that this fiendish fraud will stop at nothing to get what she wants! No matter what else she destroys in the process.
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The woman schemes to undermine the role of the wife and mother, and pretends to care for the children while scamming the man of the house. By the end of the movie, deception, lies, and even murder have nearly destroyed the family that was happy before this smiling female wolf-in-sheeps- clothing arrived. Not until it’s nearly too late does the family see through the never-fading smile and sweet talk of this conniving, pathological interloper whose campaign of terror on the home plummets in poetic justice with some help from the family's black friend. (A moment that bodes well for Obama... if art reflects life.)

It’s a super creepy story—very unsettling! Have you seen the movie? It’s called The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (borrowing from the poetic maxim "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.") The lead role is played all too well by Rebecca DeMornay, who could someday be cast as Hillary Clinton if they ever adapted this film into a movie about her 2008 campaign.

All DeMornay would have to do is shift the ruthless ambition to "rock the cradle" to the second part of the old saying. The title could be The Hand that Rules the World... or better yet...Hillary Rocks! The more I watched the movie, the scarier the similarities became.
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Like I said, I steer clear of politics here at POI. This is not a political film at all. It's an eye-opening tale of character, motives, manipulation, and the hazards of misplaced trust.
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[See Trailer here. If that won't open here are some video images from the movie (sorry they're not in English) and a short one here. Here are some video images of Senator Clinton for visual comparison. Avoid NYC Fireman next time, Adapt to friendly audiences, Try to talk tough, pretend your husband left a clean rug in the Oval Office, and Try to lighten up. [More about that cackle here and here.] If you need some more images to make the visual comparison, here are some longer clips about Hollywood connections of a different sort: Part 1 and Part 2. If you choose to rent this movie, get the edited-for-TV version, otherwise it may be flagged for objectionable language.
The question Dems are settling for is: Can she win? The questions all other voters may ask eventually include these: Based on 35 years of documented public and private behavior, do the facts match the face? Will the caring, smiling nanny that shows up on the White House porch be trustworthy when no one is looking or when someone gets in her way? Which part of "Clinton Déjà vu" will air when these re-runs begin?]

Since I do not want to dwell on politics at POI, I will instead post relevant updates for those who may find them of interest:
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Update #1: 11-25-07. This article from a few weeks after this post seems to confirm some of the concerns above and in the comments below.""I think it's going to come down to: Do you really want Bill Clinton back in the White House?" said Donna Brazile, who ran Democrat Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign."
Update #2: 11-26-07. Hillary makes little girl cry in a New Hampshire diner. "Don't let her take me, Mommy." The kid must have seen the movie! (Just kidding. I made up what the 4-year-old said, but the incident actually happened.)
Update #3: 11-28-07. This is what I'm talking about--it's re-run city! This article asserts that Hillary's run is all about Bill's "legacy." "Ladies and gentlemen," Clinton told 400 Iowans at the start of his three-city swing, "I have had a great couple of days out working for Hillary." In the next 10 minutes, he used the word "I" a total of 94 times and mentioned "Hillary" just seven times in an address that was as much about his legacy as it was about his wife's candidacy. Meanwhile some say CNN allowed Hillary to "plant" one of her supporters and co-chairmen into tonight's debate. Personally, I think this reflects far more on CNN than on the candidate who no doubt cackled about it.
Update #4: 11-29-07. Peggy Noonan says at the bottom of this piece: "The second part of the inevitability problem is that once you seem no longer inevitable--once the polls stop rising or start to fall, once that air is out of the balloon and the thing that made everyone fall in line is gone--well, what do you do? If the main argument of your candidacy is you're inevitable and suddenly you're evitable, where does that leave you? .... What does Mrs. Clinton do when she's feeling angry? What has she done in the past? Goodness, this won't be pretty."
Update #5: 12-10-07. "The concerns about Clinton, 60, a New York senator, are that she is devious, calculating and, fairly or not, a divisive figure in American politics. Those are a lot tougher to overcome. It was revealing, too, when Hart pushed them to envision these senators as leaders of the country or, as he put it, their ``boss.'' Obama, they say, would be inspirational, motivating, charismatic and compassionate. After praising Clinton's experience and intelligence, they say she would be demanding, difficult, maybe even a little scary."
Update #6: This article explains Hillary's Glass House. "Let's take a trip down memory lane, to revisit a sampling of why so many of us came to think that Hillary's first instinct when in an embarrassing spot is to lie."
Update #7: Hillary took a beating in Iowa and seems to be unraveling in New Hampshire. [Update on update... she ended up squeaking out a slim victory there.]
Update #8: 2-8-08 In this article Peggy Noonan compares Hillary to Glen Close in Fatal Attraction. Ouch! But I think the comparison to the film above is even more perfect as metaphors go.
Update #9: 2-13-08 If this is indeed a melt-down for the Clinton campaign, here is an inside explanation of which heads will roll and in what order. "...arrogance ... is the key to understanding all that has gone wrong for the Clinton campaign. Such arrogance led directly to the idea that Clinton could simply project an air of inevitability and be assured her party’s nomination. If she wins—as she very well might—it will be in spite of her original approach. As one former Clinton staffer put it to me last spring: “There was an assumption that if you were a major donor and wanted to be an ambassador, go to state dinners with the queen—unless you were an outright fool, you were going to go with Hillary, whether you liked her or not..."
Update #10: 2-14-08 In this radio interview [On WMAL-AM, Chris] Plante asked about Sen. Clinton's reaction to the comments Shuster made about Chelsea being "pimped out" by the campaign….”
Said Clinton, slowly, "I think it was inappropriate for him... to refer ...to my daughter ….in the way he did." He went on, "Hillary never complains when people say things about her or me. But when he involved my daughter, she complained, and I think it was the right thing to do….She just stuck up for her daughter, and for girls everywhere, and women everywhere, and it’s about time somebody did ...."

This strikes me as an interesting comment from the man who was not sticking up for [in this sense] Monica Lewinsky ten years ago. The Lewinsky's "daughter" Mr. Clinton repeatedly took sexual advantage of was about four years YOUNGER than Chelsea is today. Yes, I believe that stained blue dress put "under the rug" in 1998 is why some are still tripping over the thought of Bill in the White House again. America has continued distrust of the Clinton "package deal."
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Update #11: 2-21-08: Here's what George Will has to say about Hillary's cries of "unfairness and her repeated claims of 35 years of experience.
" [Cries of 'unfair'] are unpersuasive coming from someone from Illinois or Arkansas whose marriage enabled her to treat New York as her home, and the Senate as an entry-level electoral office (only 12 of today's senators have been elected to no other office) and a steppingstone to the presidency." [As to experience...] Well. She is 60. She left Yale Law School at age 25. Evidently she considers everything she has done since school, from her years at Little Rock's Rose law firm to her good fortune with cattle futures, as presidentially relevant experience.
The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to the rank as America's worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow."
Update 12: 2-21-08: Here's an explanation of how Hillary ran out of money so fast.
Update 13: 2-22-08: Ouch! This one asks "Why on earth would Democrats want to sign up for a second ride on the Clinton scandal train when they could opt for a clean slate candidate?...I believe there is a whole group of Democrats out there who are secretly enjoying being able to vote against a Clinton... without having to vote for a Republican to do it."
Update 14: 3-20-08: March was a very eventful month. As Hillary lost a dozen primaries in a row to Obama. She fell about 150 delegates behind (before Obama's pastor problems surfaced, but by then it was probably too late). Hillary tried everything to get the Michigan and Florida "disqualified" primaries to count, and on March 19 she traveled to Michigan and gave them an impassioned speech abuot how deeply she believes their votes should count and she should get the delegates (since Obama was not on the ballot). She forgot that she had said this in Iowa last January.
Update 15: 5-12-08 (I kept adding these updates to the old post for six months so as not to prompt political discussion on an on-going basis here at POI.) Here's what Peggy Noonan said about this weekend's events: "Mrs. Clinton spent this week making it clear. In a jaw-dropping interview in USA Today on Thursday, she said, '...Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."
White Americans? ... If John McCain said, "I got the white vote, baby!" his candidacy would be over. And rising in highest indignation against him would be the old Democratic Party.
To play the race card as Mrs. Clinton has, to highlight and encourage a sense that we are crudely divided as a nation, to make your argument a brute and cynical "the black guy can't win but the white girl can" is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by....She is trying to take Obama down in a new way, but also within a new context. In the past he was just the competitor. She could say, "All's fair." But now he's the competitor who is going to be the nominee of his party. And she is still trying to do him in. And the party is watching."

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Friday, November 09, 2007

My Wife Got Pulled Over for Drunk Driving Last Night!

We'd been partying all night, it's true. Doing crazy things that, frankly, people our age rarely have the energy to do. We felt like a couple of teenagers again and stayed out way too late. It was about 1:15 AM, to be exact--on a Thursday night no less. It was fun, but we were worn out. As always, we were the last to leave. Lights out. Doors locked. All we had to do was drive safely home.

Because she had some errands earlier that day, we were in separate cars. I took a shorter route home and was a minute ahead of Julie when she called me on my cell phone.

"Hey, Tom, you might want to come back here. I just got pulled over."

"By a cop?" I asked, as if "pulled over" has many cultural nuances.

"I think so." she whispered.

"You think it's a cop? Why did you stop if you're not sure it's a cop?"

"I'm pretty sure... I mean there are red and blue lights going around and I'm squinting in the rearview mirror because his lights are shining so bright at the car, but he hasn't come up to my window yet."

"He's running your plates. Just sit there and keep calm."

"Okay. I'll just stay on the phone until I see his badge. Here he comes." I heard the window roll down. Julie was first to speak.
"Hello, Officer, is everything all right?"

"Ma'am, were you on your cell phone while I was following you?"

"No. I didn't even know you were back there until you turned on the siren-light thingy. Then I called my husband because you didn't come out of your car and it was making me nervous."

"Well, Ma'am, you make me nervous..." Click... Silence.
Julie had closed her cell phone and hung up on me in the middle of the policeman's sentence. She later told me it was part of an attempt to look less nervous.

By then, I was pulling in our driveway, trying to decide if it would help or hurt matters if I went back to the scene. Julie has never gotten a ticket in her life--that's right... never. Not one. I knew that would definitely help her case.

Speaking of cases. Come to find out, that was the problem. It was the cases of empty brown bottles in the van’s rear window that raised the officer's concern. Oh, how I wished I had not stacked them high above the window line and that Julie had not lit them up with all the inside "accent" lights.

I'd better explain from the beginning or you will begin wondering what sort of double life the man at POI is living....

As you all know, I'm the administrator of a fine school I don't mention by name on my blog. For about six years in a row, my wife and I have helped out with the Sadie Hawkins Party. It's a high school "reverse courtesy" event (i.e. girls ask guys), but most of the kids just come as friends and have a great time. Each year, the Senior Class chooses a theme and does most of the work with the help of some teachers and parents. Last year was a "Ho-Down" out in a barn; this year, was a 1950's "Sock Hop" at the roller rink. There were lots of other activities, but I'll cut to the chase...

We had purchased six cases of bottled pop at Sam's Club. We chose to get bottles as part of the whole "retro" atmosphere. You should have seen us and the students, by the way. There was a couple dozen poodle skirts, white socks, rolled jeans. They looked great. I had my hair slicked back, a leather jacket, and an old pair of "Buddy Holly" black horn-rim glasses.

There's no school today, so the party was late by design with the last part being a big-screen Fifties movie, popcorn, and root beer floats back at the school. ANYWAY!.... After the party, Julie and I and the seniors were cleaning up the gym, and I carried three cases of empty Jones Pop bottles and three cases of empty IBC Root Beer bottles out to our van (to return to Sam's Club for the 10 cent/bottle deposit).

You POI faithful readers know a few things about me. I'm kind of a nostalgia buff. I enjoy knowing the history of odd little cultural things like my favorite soft drink, Vernors. You also know from a series of six posts last March, that I have my reasons for being a total abstainer from alcohol. Part five applies to the good clean fun our kids had last night. [Parts 1-3, 4, and 6.] My wife and I don't drink and never have. The "retro" brown bottles were originally used by early 20th Century drug stores and soft drink bottlers because light shortened the shelf life of their product.

As naive as this may sound, it did not occur to me what stacks of empty IBC Root Beer bottles would look like to a police officer following my wife after 1:00 in the morning. He says she was swerving a little and that her tires hit the yellow line once. There is a little more play in the steering wheel than Julie is used to, but the soft lines of her driving were not the real issue. Some other signs led the officer to understandable conclusions.

"Where are you coming from?" he asked.

"A party." Julie said blankly.

"You better explain that..." Natalie whispered. (Nat is not in high school and stayed at a friend's house where she was sleeping until Julie picked her up after the party.)

The officer shined his flashlight on our youngest daughter bundled in PJs and a coat in the passenger seat. With her knit hat pulled down to her groggy eyes, she looked like a kid-napped, homeless midget.

The officer must have thought, What's a kid that age doing out in the wee hours on a school night? but all he said was, "Is that your child?"

Julie smiled and explained the whole evening right up to my loading the van... and then her eyes lit up. "Oh, you saw the bottles in the back window. That's why you pulled me over, right?"

"They caught my eye, Ma'am, and at this hour of the night, you looked pretty suspicious. I could go the rest of my career an not hear an explanation so opposite what I was thinking... but I need to see your license just the same."

He ran her license and must have been impressed that a lady of... well... nearly my age (though she looks much younger--especially in a poodle skirt)... has never had a single ticket. He simply walked back to her window, handed her the license and said, "You have a good night, Ma'am."

I am very grateful for the men in blue who take no chances in such matters. There is nothing funny about people who drink and drive, but I’m sure he had a laugh telling the story (as I have telling you this morning!).

That officer was not the first man to be "won over" by Julie's disarming charm, calm smile, honest voice, and good clean livin'. I was, too...
nearly thirty years ago!
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[Next chapter about the Duncan Phyfe still coming. I could not resist telling you Julie got busted. We could all use a good laugh right about now.]

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Heart Aches and Ashes

My brother Dave and I were outside the door of the church at my daughter's wedding last June. In the middle of our conversation, he said, "Can you smell that smoke?" I paused, sniffed the air, and yes, I could smell smoke but from where? "It's my shoes," Dave sighed. "I guess I'm going to have to claim them as a loss after all. The insurance company had them cleaned, but you just can't get rid of that smell." Ten days before the wedding, Dave's house was nearly destroyed by fire, and 90% of its contents were a total loss. (You may remember that it was Dave who shot the beautiful video of my daughter's wedding.)
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Two weekends ago, I was at Dave's house on the other side of the state for the first time since the fire. It was charred and gutted, but contractors are being to rebuilt from the inside out. It will be several more months before he and his family can move back in, but they're doing fine all things considered.

There is a sort of grieving process involved in surviving a fire and losing all your "things," but it pales to the sorrow of lost life.

A week after seeing my brother's house, most of us heard on the news about another fire in North Carolina. So many of us have been encouraged through the months by our friend Nancy at Daily Blessings. We were all saddened when she told us that her god child, a sophomore at Clemson, was one of the seven students who did not escape that October 28th beach house fire on Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina (north of North Myrtle Beach).
Many of us have been praying for them this week.

Then this morning...
we received a phone call from my daughter,
Emily. She wanted to make sure we knew she and her husband were alright. At that moment, the morning news was showing a fire at their apartment complex. They live in a very nice setting in the dunes just off Lake Michigan. High winds, like these seen at the Grand Haven Peer, made the fire difficult to put out.

The units that were destroyed are a few buildings away from Keith and Em's place. Had they been awake, they could have seen the smoke and orange glow from their balcony, but they did not even hear the sirens in the early morning hours (--kind of scary if you think about it). Fortunately, as this newscast explains, the people in the building were awakened by some residents. Everyone got out. (Tuesday evening news update.) In my brother's case last June, his son woke to smoke and jumped from his bedroom balcony before the fire came through the door. Within minutes, his room and the adjoining bathroom were destroyed.

My heart has been heavy with these thoughts today... and fearful of "what ifs," but I have also been more mindful of our friend Nancy and her close friends and the heartache that began for them ten days ago.

Let's continue to pray for them.
Her name was also Emily.

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