Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The New Year's elopement

Happy New Year. January 1, 2009, is our wedding anniversary: forty years. We eloped.

Forty years ago tonight I was about six weeks out of the Army. Sally and I were invited to a party. The party-givers, who we didn't know, actually invited our friends, Dick and Lynda, who invited us. The party was pretty boring. I'm sure I was drinking too much, as I did in those days, and I didn't know anybody. In an offhand way I said to Sally, "Why don't we go get married?" I think I was trying to be funny.

Ha, ha.


The laugh was on me. As soon as she heard the m-word Sally practically jumped into my 1967 Dodge. Dick and Lynda were game. They were as drunk as me. We took off in the night toward Wendover, Nevada, which is about two hours west of Salt Lake City. It had snowed and our route, I-80, was pretty slick in spots. I've always wondered if I was just too stupid to get killed or if some guardian angel wasn't looking over me. How I made it to Wendover in my drunken state on icy roads is a mystery to me.

When we got to Wendover Lynda went into a casino and asked if there was a justice of the peace who could marry her friends. The people there said we'd have to travel to Elko, the county seat, which was another bunch of the dark...on icy roads. As soon as Lynda came back to the car and told us the news my nerve fled me. It drained out of me like pulling the plug on a crankcase. I tried to back out, but no one was having any of it.

"No!" said Lynda. "We've come this far and YOU'RE GOING TO GET MARRIED."

You know what? I've told this story so many times I'm afraid it's taking on the smell of one of those bullshit lies I talked about in my last blog entry. But it's true, or at least as true as my memory can be counted on for the truth. I took one look at Sally, at the tears in her eyes and said, "Well, OK, Elko it is."

We got to Elko about 3:30 in the morning. We went to the Stockman's Casino. By that time the casino as emptying out. The drunks who had passed out were being ejected by the Elko Police, who were making periodic sweeps through the place. Lynda asked one of the cops, "My friends want to get married." The cop laughed. "Well, tell 'em to go upstairs and practice up. The courthouse will be open at noon." Damn, curses, foiled again! I'd been hoping that being New Year's Day no one would be venturing to do business like marrying folks. I have since learned about Nevada that rules be damned. It's a wide-open place when it comes to things like that.

An older man who was pretty drunk, but not drunk enough to be tossed out, waved us over and offered to buy us drinks. We sat down and were treated. He rambled on about something or other. I'm sure he wasn't as old then as I am now but he looked like a geezer to me. The drinks kept coming. At one point he was talking about something and looked down at the tabletop and said, "Oh, fuck the world!" Apparently, being alone on an early New Year's morning was a bit depressing for the guy.

In my wallet I had about $15. I think Dick had a few bucks, but neither of us had thought of how much it would cost for a wedding license, or any other costs for that matter. It was in the days before Visa, but the drunk man had a credit card he let the girls use to call home. Maybe American Express or one of Visa and Mastercard's ancestors, Bankamericard or Mastercharge. Sally called her stepmom about 5:30 a.m. and told her what was going on. My future mother-in-law said she'd call my mom, who had called her concerned that I hadn't come home. Me? I didn't care if anyone was worried or not. I was worried enough about how I was going to pull this wedding off.

Dick had been playing nickel slot machines for about a half hour, and winning. He told me, "I think people have been loading 'em up all night and they're ready to pay off." Were they ever! I won $65 in nickels in a very short time on one machine. A girl with a tray full of $2.00 rolls of nickels stood by me and as the jackpots kept coming she'd just hand me my winnings.

I had to go to the bathroom and when I came back the machine I'd been playing had an out of order sign on it. Ah, well.

I was wearing a sport coat and my pockets were loaded with heavy rolls of nickels. The rest of the morning is a blur, but at noon we were at the courthouse, getting our license. We weren't the only couple there to be married; we were first in line but there were some others there for that purpose. I am looking at a copy of my marriage license as I type this: Elko Township Justice Of The Peace Edward T. Lunsford performed the ceremony. Our friends Dick and Lynda were our witnesses and their signatures are on the license. I haven't spoken with either of them for over 20 years, but they were our best friends for at least a few years after the trip to Elko.

At the conclusion of the ceremony Justice Lunsford said to me, "It's customary to tip me." I asked, "Will you take rolls of nickels?" and he gave me an answer I have used ever since: "If the bank will take it, I'll take it." So I forked over two or three rolls of nickels.

The trip back to Salt Lake is also a blur, but when we got back I remember my father-in-law, Ray, shaking my hand and giving congratulations, and I also remember my mother in a white heat of anger. I'd gone home to take a shower, change clothes, face Mom. I don't remember exactly what she said to me but it was probably more of the same "you're a harebrain" talk she gave me often. In this case she was probably right. To make a long story even longer, Sally and I spent the night at Motel 6. Motel 6 ("We'll leave the light on for you") was named that because a room cost $6.00, which I paid for with rolls of nickels. Motel 6 was bare minimum stuff: a bed, bathroom, no TV, no phone. Hey, we were on our honeymoon, so (wink-wink-nudge-nudge) who needed a TV, and especially who needed or wanted a phone?

On that night, January 1, 1969, I had no idea how long the marriage would last. Just now using the calculator I figured that Sally and I have been married 14,600 days. Does that sound longer than 40 years?

Finally, a couple of weeks later we found out that the man who had used his credit card so Sally and Lynda could call home, and who bought us drinks, was using a stolen card. It was easier to get away with it in those days. It took a while before the paperwork caught up and the crook was long gone. By then I'd settled down into a dull terror that now I had a wife and responsibilities. Ulp. In my wildest imaginings I never thought down the road, probably no more than a few days or week at a time, and certainly not 40 years.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bullshit lies

So, it turns out the dream romance was just that, a dream. The story of Herman Rosenblat and wife Roma, who it was said met at a concentration camp as children, then re-met and married years later in America, turns out to be a hoax. Herman Rosenblat excuses the falsehood, which brought his wife and him fame, as just trying to make people feel good.

Well, OK...that's fine, but it's also a bullshit lie. Sometimes people get caught up in their own lies and when they've told the lie long enough it becomes the truth to them. Maybe after all these years to Herman and Roma those 1945 events they described actually happened.

For a time when I was a junior in high school I was a bullshit liar. I told lies about things I can barely remember now. I scratch my head trying to figure my motives. I'm sure there are psychological reasons: wanting to be accepted, wanting to be the center of attention. One day I was at my locker in a hallway crowded with fellow students. A couple of lockers down I overheard two classmates laughing about one of my lies, and I knew I'd been busted. They knew I was lying to them, and I was embarrassed.

When I was telling whoppers I felt like an actor in a play, reciting lines, and I wonder if that's how Herman Rosenblat felt. As humans we're good at lying. Lying and deception are in our psychological makeup, but like a lot of other human behaviors we call it wrong for others yet do it ourselves.

Even though we all tell lies, we have a certain naïve quality that allows others to manipulate us with lies. A while ago I talked about people believing that they were abducted by aliens and taken into UFOs for medical experiments. Some of the people who tell these stories may believe them, but others are lying and they get people to believe them. Our capacity to believe lies makes it easier for a liar to get away with his craft.

Oprah had Herman Rosenblat and his wife on her show, and now that the truth has come out I'm sure she feels betrayed. Other people have been questioning the Rosenblat story for a while, and now that it's been exposed for the lie it is, I'm sure they feel vindicated. But there are other people who, even in the face of the truth, would rather believe the fiction.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Is it me...?

Or is it he?

I know it's been a week since I wrote you, my hundreds of thousands of adoring fans. Day after day e-mails fill my mailbox with your messages imploring me, "Please, El Postino, please come back to your blog. Enlighten us with your wisdom, guide us on our paths of intellectual curiosity, tell us in unsparing detail your fascinating outlook on life and describe to us everyone else's major character defects."

Of course, then I woke up and realized I'd been dreaming.

But this wasn't a dream, because apparently I do figure in other peoples' lives, in some strange way. A principal I've worked with for several years was talking to me recently. He mentioned that he found it enjoyable, "to talk to you and your wife in Las Vegas a couple of years ago."

I said, "I haven't been in Las Vegas since 1973."

He replied, "Oh, then it must've been Mesquite [Nevada]," to which I remarked, "I've never been to Mesquite."

He looked a little puzzled but continued on as if I hadn't just disrupted a memory. The thing is, and I've mentioned it in this blog before, people do think I'm other people. In the early '90s I was asked, "Are you the guy in the underwear ad?" Last year I was asked, "Aren't you the guy in the Auto Zone poster?" "No, I'm not."

Finally, I worked with a secretary for 15 years who was so sure it was me having dinner at the Macaroni Grill restaurant that she approached "me" and started talking. It wasn't until "I" said I wasn't "me" and didn't know "me" that she asked if perhaps "I" was my own twin brother. I can't vouch for the story because I wasn't the "I" talking to her.

So what makes people think they see me elsewhere? These aren't strangers, these are people who have worked with me every day for many years, and yet they think I'm someone else. Who the guy and his wife were that the principal thought were my wife and me I have no idea. I wonder if that couple thought my friend was some sort of crazy person.

It could be the white beard. Maybe that's what people are looking at, rather than my other features. What say you. I ask again, as I have asked before: Do you know me? Do you think you know me?


A few days ago I went to YouTube and found a video of sexy pin-up Bettie Page dancing. Someone had put a song by '60s garage rock band, The Seeds, over the video. I put it on my blog. Today I went again to YouTube looking for songs by bandleader/entertainer Louis Prima, and found one of his songs over another stripper, also named Betty, Betty Blue. I give you Betty, I give you Louis:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Blue Eyes Crying

A few days ago I was taken by surprise by a pair of blue eyes. As I lost myself in a reverie about eyes being the windows of the soul, the eyes have it, and eyes on the prize, I thought about "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain," one of my favorite songs of all time.

Thank god for YouTube, which is a treasure chest of music remembered, forgotten and new.

Roy Acuff did the first version of "Blue Eyes" the year I was born; his is a more uptempo version of the Fred Rose song. Hank Williams followed in this transcription from his old radio show, year unknown (gotta be very early '50s or late '40s, because Williams died New Year's Eve, 1952).

Willie Nelson's "Blue Eyes" is the one I heard first when it was released in the early 1970s. This version from Austin, TX, is Willie redoing the song as only he can. He would never be content to sing the same version over and over; he reinvents music. His is a lot closer to Hank Williams', which shows the evolution of a great song. Williams and Nelson both understood that "Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain" is a lament, a song about loss, not a hillbilly dance tune.

Finally, Sheryl Crow takes Willie's version and makes it her own song. But she continues on with the song as lament: "When we kissed goodbye and parted, I knew we'd never meet again." Powerful words in a simple melody, made so much more by the interpretations of the great artists who have sung this special song.

Roy Acuff, 1947

Hank Williams

Willie Nelson

Sheryl Crow, 2004

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Turning the Page

The cult fave, pin-up model Bettie Page, died the other day at age 85. I don't think anyone ever thought of her as being that age, because all of the pictures of her, and there are thousands out there, are of a young, voluptuous, beautiful woman.

I saw pictures of Bettie in 1966, after she retired as a model. A friend was showing me some old magazines and pointed her out. I was amazed at her beauty. I think everyone who sees her for the first time has that feeling.

Among her other modeling jobs, Bettie used to hire out to photography clubs. Guys with cameras would pay her to go on some location shooting, then take her picture. There could be thousands more pictures of Bettie we've never seen, from the late 1940's-early 1950s, in photo albums and in desk drawers. What she's most famous for, the pictures that helped sell hundreds of issues of magazines, "the kind men like," are everywhere. After her religious conversion Bettie went home to the South, then disappeared. There was a revival of her image in the 1980s, but she wasn't making anything off the public's appetite for her. She came forward and claimed her own pictorial representation. I hope she made some money from the process.

Page made an untold number of film loops and was the subject of photos with S&M as the theme. These were made by Irving Klaw in New York City, and sold to a specialized audience of guys who liked to see girls tied up or spanked. When I see pictures of S&M as it's done now it seems painful and dangerous, and someone could get seriously hurt. With Bettie you never got the feeling she was suffering; just that she seemed to be enjoying her work, and that for her it was all just another gig in front of the camera. In my adolescent mind the pictures of her in nylons and high heels seemed forbidden, mysterious, kinky. Nowadays you see stuff like that in the pages of fashion magazines. Apparently Bettie was about 50 years ahead of fashion. Either that or people looked at those old pictures and said, "That's the look I want for this ad!"

A captured still from the DVD, Bettie Page The Girl In The Leopard Print Bikini.

I believe that well into our current century, like Marilyn Monroe, Bettie Page will remain the object of a loyal following.

Here's a great video. Someone matched up an old burlesque clip of Bettie with the song, "Can't Seem To Make You Mine," by the '60s group, The Seeds.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Old galfriends

A coworker asked me a few months ago, "Do you ever wonder what happened to your old girlfriends? Do you ever wonder what they're doing now?" I answered, "Hell, no!"

I've gotten to a stage in life where I understand about unfinished and finished business. Some folks never do, so maybe I've got an advantage. I know when a relationship is over. I knew my relationship with Cathy was over when I was in the Army and got a Dear John letter from her. She told me she'd met someone else and they were going to get married.

I met Cathy when I was just short of 17, and she was barely 15. I was a junior in high school and she was a 9th grader. I suppose her folks were pretty liberal by letting us go out together, but usually we double-dated. Parents thought that was safe. It really wasn't; instead of one couple in a car necking you had two couples, but I digress.

Cathy and I practiced the relationship business on each other for about three years, and we made a lot of mistakes. Kids don't understand the process of courtship, the process of getting to know a person of the opposite sex, getting disappointed, getting dumped, getting your heart broken. We went through the process with monotonous regularity. We'd get to a point where we'd be fine, then something would happen and we'd be fighting again.

During one of our fights she went on a date with a classmate, who ran his Volkswagen Beetle into the back end of a parked car, sending Cathy to the hospital with her teeth knocked out. Luckily the boy's dad was a dentist who fixed her teeth for her. But the hidden damage was that she sustained some sort of brain injury. I never found out what it was.

After she was out of my life I got lucky. I met and married my wife, while the guy Cathy married divorced her at some point. I have no idea what happened to her after that, and after I get through writing this I'll go about the business of not thinking about her for say, the next 40 years.

Some people never get over former loves. Some still feel love for a person long gone out of their life. I'm not telling anyone how to feel, but I think I'm just more pragmatic. I don't waste time on someone who's gone. When a relationship is over it's time to just move on, not fret about what went wrong or worry about getting the person back. Not long after my youthful romance with Cathy ended I moved on, lessons learned.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mom, is that you?

My friend linked to a really fun vintage pin-up blog.

I had a thought looking at all of these old-time girly photos. What if a guy in 2008 is looking at this site and sees a picture of his mother from her younger days, posing seductively? Here's a basic plot, and I'm throwing it out to all of you writers out there. Use it if you want to:

The man did not know this side of his mother or her past. His father is in the Alzheimer's wing of a nursing home, out of his mind. His mother died of cancer in her sixties, so he can't confront her. His mother's only surviving sister, his aunt, is initially close-mouthed, but tells him some names of people his mother mentioned during her wild days. The man decides to find out about her and uncovers her links to not only photo clubs (the clubs organized to take pictures of models for a fee), but also pornography, the mob and murder.

That's all I have. Your assignment, should you decide to accept it, will be to come up with a near 50-year-old mystery and the secrets the man uncovers that have a ripple effect to the present day.

I thought of it after finding this pin-up picture on another blog earlier this year.

The face reminded me of photos I've seen of my mother when she was young. Mom died this year at age 86, so she would have been the right age, and my imagination ran away with me. No one wants to think of his mother in this situation, but somebody's moms did it. There has always been a whole industry based on women who don't mind showing off their bodies, and there are a lot of guys who like looking at them, more than enough to support the industry.

If you use the plot, let me know. I'd love to read what you've written.