Friday, January 23, 2009

Musings for a dreary January day:

1) I was watching one of my favorite movies last week, which I haven't seen for a couple of years. A real schmaltzy melodrama from 1936, staring Mickey Rooney, Jackie Cooper, and Freddie Bartholomew: The Devil Is a Sissy. Rooney was 15, Cooper 13, and Freddie 12, but by 1936 they were all experienced, veteran movie stars. The boys end up in trouble with the law, but haven't broken any big ones, and have to meet with a juvenile court judge played by Jonathan Hale, who has a beautiful speaking voice by the way. He tells the boys that the devil is a "weak sister" a sissy because he can't take the heat; he causes trouble and runs away. A real "tough guy" takes his medicine, takes responsibility for his actions, fixes his mistakes. It seems to me that there are an awful lot of sissies in the U.S .of A. today. The slightest bit of rough going and they run away, or if they are big shots with huge screw-ups they run to the Federal Gummit to bail them out. Then there are all the "weak sisters" in the congress who are directly responsible for such things as the housing market collapse because they strong armed lending institutions to make home loans to minorities who had no conceivable way to make the payments. They whine and blather on and run away from their responsibility for the collapse by blaming others who had no hand in the sordid affair.
Anyway, I really like the movie. You can watch the whole film on you-tube starting at:

One small section of the film is missing from the clips, but it doesn't hurt the story line.

Here are Mickey, Freddie, and Jackie from a production still of the film.

2) I watched the coronation of the new messiah on Tuesday. After the inaugural speech, I thought maybe we were all supposed to quit our jobs and let the Great Gummit take care of us. I was disconcerted by the hate and disrespect that was shown to President Bush by the peace, love, tolerance and diversity crowd. Is it not strange how liberal socialist/progressives who preach love, tolerance, and diversity, not to mention environmental "green," spew forth such hate, close-mindedness,and utter contempt for opinions not their own, not to mention leaving the mall looking like a county garbage dump. Yes, I know that there are some conservatives who can be close-minded, hateful, and litter-bugs to boot, but conservatives don't claim, as liberal socialist/progressives do, to being THE party of love, tolerance, diversity, and uber protectors of the environment. So, it is difficult to over look when they are joyfully hateful and intolerant, and act like a bunch of "pigs." Oops! I shouldn't say that; it's not fair to the pigs. And who pushed over the porta-potties anyway?

3) It seems to me that all past Presidents have done some good and some bad things. Some have done more good than bad and vice-verse, they are only human beings, after all. But it really worries me when the majority of the people choose a president who says and does things that are not constant with the founding principles of our country, like capitalism. That to me spells BIG BAD. We have had a few BIG BADS in the past century, and it took years to overcome the damage.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Part One:
Today is, as everyone seems duty bound to say, an historic day in the history of the United States: the inauguration of the first black President of the United States of America. Only time will show whether it is a great day or a tragic day for the country. I am not against having a black man, or woman (black or white) for that matter, as President: I am just not convinced this is the right one. There are several conservative black men whom I highly respect, and for whom I would have voted without hesitation. They have economic and political knowledge and expertise far beyond the "hope and change" rhetoric of Mr. Obama, but are not politicians, have no political machine, and could never be elected.

I hope that President Obama takes a more moderate road than the one on which he campaigned and that he will eschew the radical, far-left, socialist agenda of some of his biggest monetary supporters. I sincerely hope he will reflect deeply on the oath of his office: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."(Article II, Section 1., paragrph 7); and not try to reinterpret the Constitution by executive order or by further encouraging activist judges. I am hopeful but worried, having read many of his statements about the Constitution.

Part Two:
Here is another memoir. Background: In February, 1967, I left home as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. At that time missionaries spent a week in Salt Lake City for general training and instruction before leaving for the mission field. Those who were going to non-English speaking missions were sent to Provo to learn the basics of the languages they would be speaking. There was no Missionary Training Center then: language missionaries were housed in different dormatories on the BYU campus or around Provo. I was to learn Spanish, so I was sent to Knight-Mangum Hall on campus with my companion, Elder Barker.

The Smack Heard ‘Round the World
By Michael L. Goodman

I deliberately throw back the covers, swing my feet out of bed, and slowly sit up. The pain in my chest throbs with each heart beat. The narcotic pain pill isn’t working: I feel like death warmed over, but I know exactly what I am going to do in the next thirty seconds.
I have been at Knight-Mangum Hall, the Spanish language missionary training facility on the BYU campus, for two months. Actually, two and a half weeks of that time I have spent across the street in the campus medical center suffering with a viral heart infection. My companion, Elder Barker, and I had occupied the room on the southeast corner of the fourth floor all by ourselves until the week I had my “heart attack.” That week two new greenies were assigned to our room, and we lost the convenient storage space of the empty bunk beds by the door. I remember Elder Evans’ name only because of what happens this evening.
Elder Barker and the greenies have gone down to the showers at the other end of the hall. I have turned out the lights and eased into bed after taking my pain pill. As I lie here in the soothing dark solitude wishing I were home, a rumble of voices, banging doors, shouts, laughter, and running foot-falls begins to swell in the hall. A shaving cream fight has erupted down by the showers, probably instigated by fun-loving Elder Barker, and is rolling through the hall sucking missionaries out of their rooms to join the melee.
Into the room burst the greenies; on go the lights! They are giggling and jostling and punching each other while rummaging through their things searching for ammunition. They don’t hear me asking them to be quiet or to turn off the lights as they fling themselves back into the battle. The door is open. The lights are on.
Knowing that they are just going to come back anyway, I foolishly pull myself out of bed, shut the door, and turn off the lights. I am tempted to take another pill. Happily, the noise level ebbs somewhat as the action flows back to the far end of the hall and the showers.
A few minutes after I am back in bed, the noise level drops significantly. There is only the thump of running feet and quickly slammed doors and anxious, hushed voices admonishing, “Hurry!” Move!” “Go!” The zone leaders from three floors down must have come up to investigate the commotion, and the combatants are beating a hasty retreat.
The lights flash on as the greenies rush into the room, flushed, giggling, and too doped on adrenaline to be quiet or ready to sleep. They hop into their bunks, chatting and recounting the whole history of the whom and the what and the when and the where of the great shaving cream war.
I ask them again to be quiet. “Please,” I implore, “I am still sick. I’m exhausted, and I need some sleep. Please turn off the light and go to sleep.”
Elder Evans on the top bunk, rises up on his elbow, smirks at me and then says with a simpering tone and sarcastic smile, “Tuck us in and give us a kiss, MOTHER.”
His smirky smile vanishes when he sees me throw off the covers and sit up in bed. He cowers back slightly as I approach. His eyebrows rise as his eyes enlarge. He thinks I am going to hit him. But I am not going to hit him. I deliberately take his head between my hands and plant the biggest, loudest smack of a kiss I am able to pucker upon his hot, flushed cheek.
“Now,” I say through a tooth-clenched smile, enunciating each word, “be-quiet-and-go-to-sleep.”
Without taking my eyes off his horrified face, my hand slaps the light switch by the door, and the room is plunged into dark, terrified silence. Shuffling back to my bed, I clasp my hand over my mouth to stifle a chortle. Didn’t think I’d do that, did you, Elder. Well, now you know. Don’t mess with Goodman.
When Elder Barker finally returns, he is greeted by a stereophonic “Shhhhh” from the greenies’ bunks and an urgently whispered, “Don’t make any noise.”
I smile off to sleep.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I was looking through some transcripts of tape recordings I have made of my father for family history. He has told a few stories about things that happened when I and my sister Jill and brother Mark were little, as well as stories that happened long before we were born. I go through them occasionally when I am trying to jog my memory or am needing a topic for a memoir. He was born in 1923. I found this little fragment that happened in about 1928. I don't know if I should call it: "Song and Dance Man" or "Father, Dear Father, Come Home with Me Now."

In Detroit, when my father was four or five years old, his mother would often send him down the block to the speakeasy to tell his father to come home. My father would kick on the door, and the doorkeeper would look out the peephole. My father would continue to kick the door until the man looked down to see him and let him in. Then he would search through the crowd until he found grandpa. Grandpa would heft dad up onto the bar. The piano player would pound out a popular tune while my father danced along the bar, like a lot of street urchins did in those days to collect a penny or two from passersby. Sometimes he would sing as well, if he knew most of the words. The customers would tell him how cute he was and pinch his cheeks and buy him sodas and candy bars. He said that it sometimes took him a while to remember why grandma had sent him to the speakeasy because he was having so much fun.

Monday, January 12, 2009

For the last three years, I have been writing memoir pieces an in-service writing class sponsored through the Jordan School District. I started the class as a way to practice and improve my writing skills while, at the same time, putting my life history on paper for my children. But I found memoir to be a different style of writing about life experiences, a very different discipline than simply writing a chronological life history. I have certainly found the struggle of memoir writing to be a life experience in and of itself.
For everyone, even we unimportant people, there are hundreds of fascinating stories from and about life that, if well told, are interesting to one's family and friends. I strive to write a letter to my family and friends monthly, and I include a piece of memoir with it. My ninety-year-old mother-in-law is my biggest fan.
I am going to post on this blog some past memoir pieces that I have revised many times, and I hope that they are in their final form. By posting, they will be electronically "out there" in the ether somewhere forever. So here goes the first post.

At The Wall
Michael L. Goodman

It was a physically stressing position, leaning into the polished, black granite wall trying to hold the strip of newsprint with one hand snug against the third name from the bottom of the panel and rubbing the graphite pencil over the incised letters with the other hand. I could feel my face reddening with the strain of holding my body at that awkward angle. My eyes teared with a flood of sorrow, regret, anger, and maybe a twinge of survivor’s guilt as the W-A-R-R-E-N appeared on the paper. The paper shifted slightly as I rubbed the pencil over the G, but I finished the name even though it was crooked.
I took the second strip of paper and smoothed it over the letters, but this time I held the strip on the left side with my knee giving me a free hand to hold the paper straight as I rubbed over the letters again.
When I stood, my legs were a little unstable, my face was flushed, my eyes were wet, and my breathing was shallow. Looking at my reflection in the black, mirror-like stone of the wall, I took a couple of deep breaths and steadied myself. Backing away from the panel, I almost bumped into a man who had been watching me; watching me and the dozens of others along the angling gash in the grassy slope on the north side of Constitution Gardens.
“Oh, excuse me,” I stammered as our eyes met.
“No harm done,” he said with a mild British accent. He was about my height, a few years older, but thinner. He wore a brown plaid shirt, a light tan blazer, blue jeans, and a bemused smile that was very close to a smirk. “Tell me,” he said, glancing leisurely left and right along the 54,000 names. “I don’t quite understand. What does all this mean to Americans?”
Looking at him with my mouth open, I couldn’t even explain what it all meant to me, or what I was feeling at that moment let alone what all this means to millions of other “Americans.” How do you give an answer that covers ten years of friendship with the very first kid you met when you moved to California: or guilt at not having time to talk the last time you saw him when he came by the house to say good bye; or unspeakable grief standing by an ugly, black gash in the cemetery grass on a beautiful hill above San Diego Bay; or the vague thought that your name could be on that wall if an ulcer the size of a small bullet-hole in your gut hadn’t been enough for a jocular corporal to stamp your selective service papers with a 4F? How do you meaningfully answer “What does all this mean?”?
“I can’t say. I don’t know,” I said haltingly, with my pencil in one hand and two WARREN GUTHRIE HARDING rubbings, reverently held in the other, fluttering slightly as the afternoon cooled. “There’s no easy answer.”
“Hmmmm,” he said, frowning at me like a tourist disappointed with his tour guide. Losing interest, he pivoted smartly to the left and ambled down along the wall shaking his head.
Turning to the wall, I had one last, long look at myself reflected among the names; one last, lingering touch of the incised letters; one last, wavering breath and sigh before returning to the top of the slope and my patient wife.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wow! I haven't written since November 2008. Not a faithful blogger, I! I am spending too much time trying to finish preparations for the annual Utah Educational Library Media Association (UELMA)conference in March 2009. I have had nothing but problems with organizing this conference. People sign up to help and then drop out. I had a big name author signed in 2007, but because his representative messed up, the conference date was not on his calendar, hence, it was scheduled over. I was not happy about it, but nothing could/can/or will be done about it.

I noticed an article on the front page of the paper this week that our new president, Barack Obama, wants a bailout package without any pork attached. This just proves that he is too inexperienced and naive for the job. His one, unfinished, term as junior senator from Illinois in the great U.S. den of thieves taught him nothing about how our great and abominable federal gummit works.

I really shouldn't complain about the great and abominable Congress of the United States. After all, it is the very best congress that liberal Democrats and special interest money can buy! It is a great tragedy that the American people don't have any lobbyists in Washington to protect their interests.